Hollywood’s Casting Blitz: It’s All About Diversity in the Wake of #OscarsSoWhite

Rebecca Ford and Borys Kit, Hollywood Reporter, March 2, 2016

The biggest star to take the stage during the Academy Awards arguably was the #OscarsSoWhite controversy as Chris Rock hammered home Hollywood’s diversity issues during the three-plus-hour telecast. But now that the curtain has closed, the question becomes how the industry will avoid a repeat.

The wheels already might be in motion: Since the Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 14, a slew of diverse stories and color-blind castings have gained momentum. Newly announced projects include the young Barack Obama movie Barry and Disney’s immigrant story Dr. Q. (Those come on the heels of the record-breaking $17.5 million Sundance deal for Nate Parker’s slave drama The Birth of a Nation).

“There’s definitely a big conversation taking place right now in our business,” says Management 360 partner Darin Friedman. “From both the filmmaker side and the buyer side, there’s a push for more diverse stories. It’s happening in a genuine way: an understanding that the cast or the directors who get hired should reflect the way the world looks.”

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{snip} J.J. Abrams’ production company Bad Robot has teamed with its agency, CAA, and studio partners to require that women and people of color are submitted for writing, directing and acting jobs in proportion to their representation in the U.S. population.

“The Oscars controversy was a wake-up call to examine our role in expanding opportunities internally at Bad Robot and externally with our content and partners,” says Abrams, who produces the Star Wars and Star Trek movie franchises along with the TV series Person of Interest and Hulu’s miniseries 11.22.63. “It’s good for audiences, and it’s good for the bottom line.”

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Several other actors of color have nabbed high-profile roles in recent weeks: Idris Elba is in talks to star in Fox’s romantic drama The Mountain Between Us in a lead role that originally was written for a white actor (Charlie Hunnam was in talks at one point); Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda will star in Disney’s Mary Poppins sequel as a character similar to that played by Dick Van Dyke in the original; and Michael B. Jordan will star in MGM’s remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, playing a role previously inhabited by Steve McQueen and Pierce Brosnan.

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