Can we still enjoy great films featuring disgraced actors?
- Credit: Archant
Never before has Hollywood been so toxic but can we still enjoy films and performers tainted by scandal? Arts editor Andrew Clarke looks at why we should separate the art from the allegation.
With the Time’s Up and #MeToo campaigns changing the face of Hollywood, with allegations of sexual misconduct sending some of Tinsel Town’s biggest stars into a toxic black hole, the whole nature of moviegoing is being transformed.
If the casting process is being shaken up then this will surely affect the movies we watch and will affect our relationship with the stars we love to watch...or used to love to watch.
The big question, which hasn’t really be answered or addressed, is whether we, as moviegoers, feel comfortable watching films made by disgraced actors, directors or producers?
Kevin Spacey was quickly dropped by Netflix from House of Cards and Ridley Scott reshot his scenes in his film All The Money In The World and the world was left in no doubt that almost overnight Kevin Spacey, formerly one of the most highly respected actors in the world, was persona non grata.
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But, where does that leave us? Can we still watch and enjoy The Usual Suspects, American Beauty or Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil? Three classic films in which he delivered standout performances.
Actors have clear visible links with films. The role of a director and producer is less obvious on screen. The allegations against Harvey Weinstein are awful; encompassing rape and sexual assault, both of which he denies, but nevertheless he remains tainted. The question lurking in the back of our minds is can we/should we continue to enjoy the films he has been responsible for?
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Like it or not, Harvey Weinstein has been responsible for some of the greatest films of the past 30 years. Both with The Weinstein Company and previously at Miramax he had a knack of putting together films that would not only pick up Oscars but would also do good business at the box office. Shakespeare In Love, Emma, The English Patient, Pulp Fiction, Scream, Velvet Goldmine, Good Will Hunting, Little Voice, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, Iris, The Shipping News, Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gangs of New York, the list of movies with Weinstein’s fingerprints all over them is huge.
These are great films. He had a knack of recognising which books and plays would work well on the big screen but are these films now tainted?
Personally, this seems rather extreme and we are in danger of cutting our noses off to spite our face. We are also condemning to oblivion the work of the very people who may have suffered at Weinstein’s hands and may be very proud of the work they did, despite his presence on set.
There is also the question of those who continue to work – and receive critical acclaim – people like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, who Hollywood, critics and film festivals continue to embrace, and haven’ty been charged with any offences and yet are villified on social media.
We do have to be wary of the modern phenominon of Trial by Twitter because, let’s face it, none of us have the full facts.
The strange ‘inclusive’ nature of modern celebrity means that we frequently feel betrayed when a favourite star or personality is accused of sexual wrongdoing. This new world of Twitter followers and Facebook likes means that we have an even greater emotional engagement with these giants of the silver screen than our parents and grandparents did when they had to settle for ‘off-duty’ items in Picturegoer magazine.
But, even though we feel betrayed, it shouldn’t really affect how we see their films. The English Patient and Shakespeare In Love remain great films and shouldn’t be tarnished by Harvey Weinstein’s involvement.
I love the work of Peter Sellers. I think he was a brilliant actor and was possessed of a unique and brilliant comic mind. Even though I shudder when I read details of his home life I am still able to lose myself in his films and appreciate his genius, even though he comes across as a less than likeable human being.
Although, it seems inconceivable now, we also have to consider the possibility that time and contrition may rehabilitate both Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey in the eyes of the powerbrokers.
Mel Gibson has been welcomed back into the fold after 12 years in the wilderness following his anti-semetic rant at a police officer following his arrest for drink-driving. That was the final straw in a long-line of unpleasant pronouncements but it seems that Hollywood does forgive if those with talent are truly sorry.