Six of the films industry’s busiest directors met recently for a roundtable discussion about their work and the upcoming awards season. Nearly all of the directers were white, with the exception of Steve McQueen, who’s black. But when McQueen brought up the issue of race and how it plays a role in casting, all of the other directors went ominously silent.
When McQueen asked the five other directors in the room why there weren’t more black actors in film, they all stayed silent. McQueen, the director behind the movie “Shame,” offered a stinging indictment of white directors’ seeming refusal to hiring actors of color. He was saying this as he sat next to Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”, “Juno”), Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”), Mike Mills (“Beginners”), Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”) and Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”).
“Not stepping into that,” said Reitman, who’s had Oscar nominations for best director.
“Film should reflect real life. Otherwise, what’s the point? Just make superhero movies all the time,” McQueen said about filmmaking.
“I’m always astonished by American filmmakers, particularly living in certain areas, when they never cast one black person, or have never put them in a lead in the movie,” McQueen said. “I’m astonished. It’s shameful. How do you live in New York and not cast a black actor or a Latino actor? It’s shameful. It’s unbelievable.”
Strangely enough, the top 3 leads in McQueen’s two last films have been white, according to IMDB lists. In 2010, only two of the 30 highest grossing films featured major non-white characters.