Pulitzer Prize-winning screenwriter David Mamet gives Hollywood a fit of the ... trends now
Hollywood’s ‘diversity’ drive is supposed to provide greater opportunities for ethnic minorities and women, but in the case of black motorcycle racer Joi Harris, it cost her her life.
During the filming of 2018 superhero film Deadpool 2, a stunt rider was required to stand in for African-American actress Zazie Beetz in a scene that involved hurtling through the streets of Vancouver on a motorbike without a helmet.
The producers could have easily used a black man or a white woman wearing make-up — but they reportedly didn’t want to fall foul of strict Tinseltown union diversity rules that insist they could only use a black woman.
The problem was that there weren’t any black female stunt riders. In desperation, the film makers turned to Joi Harris, 40, a motorcycle road-racer who had won many races but had never performed any stunts.
‘And she didn’t complete the one she was hired for,’ observes acclaimed screenwriter David Mamet in a new book. ‘The director called “action,” and she started riding down the steps, as per the script, lost control, and died [crashing through a plate-glass window]. Who would take the blame for the poor woman’s death? The Diversity Committee? Don’t make me laugh.’
During the filming of 2018 superhero film Deadpool 2, a stunt rider was required to stand in for African-American actress Zazie Beetz(pictured) in a scene that involved hurtling through the streets of Vancouver on a motorbike without a helmet
The problem was that there weren’t any black female stunt riders. In desperation, the film makers turned to Joi Harris, 40, a motorcycle road-racer who had won many races but had never performed any stunts. Pictured: A police officer examines a motorcycle after Joi Harris died
Diversity — along with pious Oscar acceptance speeches and Paul Newman’s wholesome image among other things — is among the many cherished Hollywood values and beliefs at which Mamet takes pot shots in a caustic new memoir that is so withering it has been described as a ‘late career suicide note’.
Mamet, widely regarded as one of the finest screenwriters of his generation, won a Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross, his 1984 play about ruthlessly competitive estate agents.
He had moved to Hollywood to write the script for the 1981 Jack Nicholson remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice.
In the succeeding decades he forged a formidable reputation as a scriptwriter, with thrillers and dramas including legal potboiler The Verdict starring Paul Newman, Brian De Palma’s gangster classic The Untouchables, the political satire Wag The Dog with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, and heist thriller House Of Games.
The gritty, taut and frequently profane dialogue that characterises Mamet’s films is instantly recognisable in his memoir. Its title, Everywhere An Oink Oink: An Embittered, Dyspeptic And Accurate Report Of Forty Years In Hollywood, gives a fairly accurate summary of the delightfully acerbic, score-settling contents.
Mamet, who believes his once-glittering career was damaged after he announced in 2008 that he was no longer a ‘brain-dead liberal’ but a conservative, has already incensed more sensitive reviewers with his book’s off-colour revelations and observations about actors, producers and studio bosses, not to mention his utter contempt for Hollywood’s endless wokery.
Mamet has long been outspoken but, at 76, he seems to care less than ever about what he says and how people react. Among the book’s many provocative statements is his insistence that films don’t need dialogue, that acting is really pretty basic and that today’s film industry is in thrall to spineless and talentless ‘village idiots’ churning out politically- correct drivel.
And some of his industry gossip — such as the story that Walt Disney had a private inner office whose walls ‘depicted Disney characters involved in an orgy’ — is priceless.
The gritty, taut and frequently profane dialogue that characterises Mamet’s films is instantly recognisable in his memoir
But it is Hollywood’s abject surrender to progressive politics that really gets his goat. This ideological invasion, which has gained ground with accelerating speed in recent years following the uproar over the #MeToo anti-sexual harassment movement and Black Lives Matter, has been the death of filmmaking, he grumbles.
In his view, the relentless appetite for what he calls ‘Diversity Porn’ has gone beyond ludicrous.
‘A question: Is it a “good idea” to make Wuthering Heights with a mixed-race cast? Yes? No?,’ he asks. ‘How about a biography of Harry Truman, with the lead portrayed by an Asian woman?
If that seems absurd, perhaps the entire mechanism might stand some scrutiny.’ Where is the limit? ‘If the motorcycle rider actually must replicate the race and sex of the actress — even at the cost of her life — why not demand certificates of homosexuality from those portraying gays, a diagnosis of tuberculosis from anyone playing Camille, and death certificates from the cast of When We Dead Awaken by Henrik Ibsen?’
But there’s always a double standard at play in the presentation of diversity, being that ‘any person can and should be allowed to play any part’, he says.
For while an Asian man playing Frenchwoman Eve Curie, daughter of scientist Marie, might be considered ‘provocative’, a white man playing Martin Luther King ‘would be objectionable’.
Promoting people simply because of their gender, sexual orientation or skin colour has led to a deterioration in acting standards and the quality of films he argues, with diversity making modern films yawningly predictable.
‘We knew [a movie villain] of old by his Black Moustache, or his Black Hat; and today by his white skin,’ he writes provocatively.
Reputaton: Val Kilmer and Derek Luke with David Mamet (centre) on the set of his film Spartan
White hegemony in a century of Hollywood movie-making has been replaced by black hegemony, he says, in one of the most controversial statements in his book. While Tinseltown wouldn’t have dreamt