March 3, 2005

Speaking of Will Smith

A reader sent me this note:

Today on the Don and Mike Show, they were talking about an interview Will Smith gave to the London Daily Express talking about casting decisions for "Hitch." Smith talks more openly in Europe, so they said. Apparently, Smith said that the studio turned down the idea of a black-black couple (wouldn't play in US or in Europe); also turned down black/white (would go over okay in Europe but not in US). Finally decided to compromise with black/Latina to satisfy all markets.

Moviegoers like leading ladies to be fairer-skinned than their leading men, and they also like their leading ladies to have lots of long soft hair, both of which make it harder (not impossible, just harder) for black actresses to make it big.

The leading lady in Hitch, Eva Mendes, is not much of a name at all (I can't place her) to star with a star of the magnitude of Will Smith, so it appears that the producers essentially decided to that the important thing was to find a Hispanic, and it didn't have to be anybody famous.

Black-black romantic comedies are a steadily profitable subgenre -- you can make them for $10-15 million, advertise them cheaply mostly on BET and buses, and they'll draw 25-35 million domestically, but they don't sell much overseas. Black-black buddy action movies like Bad Boys II can make over a $100 million and do pretty well overseas, and black-white (Lethal Weapon) or black-Asian (Rush Hour) buddy movies can become lucrative franchises, but black actresses aren't in much demand overseas at all. Whitney Huston might have broken through after The Bodyguard into being a Barbra Streisand-style singer-actress who could "open" a movie, but she developed a lot of personal problems, and never really learned how to act.

The fine black comedy Barbershop made 75 million in America, but if it had been a white movie, with say Cedric the Entertainer as the one black guy in it, it might have gone to Meet the Parents level in the $150-200 million range.

My homepage and blog is

No comments: