Director Woody Allen could use some good press. Last Oscar season, allegations that he sexually assaulted his daughter years ago popped back up, almost derailing the nomination of Cate Blanchett for his most recent film Blue Jasmine. Well, the New York Observer sat down with Allen recently for a profile of the filmmaker and he said some things about diversity in his films that’s raising eyebrows.
“He’s horrified when I bring up the subject,” wrote Roger Friedman for the Observer. “We talk about the new generation of wonderful black actors like Viola Davis and wonder if they’ll ever be cast in a Woody Allen film. He doesn’t hesitate to respond: ‘Not unless I write a story that requires it. You don’t hire people based on race. You hire people based on who is correct for the part. The implication is that I’m deliberately not hiring black actors, which is stupid. I cast only what’s right for the part. Race, friendship means nothing to me except who is right for the part.'”
Allen’s comments are incredibly telling about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. They suggests that there is limited thinking around what stories require black actors — presumably ones where their being black is central to the narrative. What such thinking fails to understand, however, is that blackness is not always central in the lived experiences of black people. Conversely, Allen failed to explain — and perhaps the interviewer didn’t ask — why his films on life and romance in New York City require white actors.