Yesterday, we got the news that Eric Bana will be joining Forest Whitaker in the big screen adaptation of The Archbishop and the Antichrist, a stage play by Michael Ashton. Titled The Forgiven, Whitaker will be taking on the role of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, while Bana will be playing Piet Blomfeld.
As Craig so rightly pointed out when the news broke, why don’t we have any major South African talent in the lead roles of movies about South Africa? It goes beyond just butchering the South African accent. We have high calibre actors that get completely side-lined into minor roles, despite being arguably more qualified for the job. We know a little bit more about our own history than Americans, and that alone would add a new, better dimension to their performances.
We’ve seen it time and again. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in Invictus. Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. Steve Coogan in the recently released Shepherds and Butchers. Forest Whitaker (again) with Orlando Bloom in City of Violence. And, of course, the most infamous example of all, Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond. Although, I think he was supposed to be Zimbabwean? It was hard to tell.
I know that ultimately, capitalism trumps patriotism. Big stars mean a big box office, so our local talent doesn’t really stand a chance. More’s the pity.
What do you think about international actors playing South African characters? Are you over the awful renditions of Saffer accents, peeved about being side-lined, or do think we should just be happy South Africa is on the big screen at all?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.
Last Updated: November 2, 2016
Alien Emperor Trevor
November 2, 2016 at 10:46
ZA actors only get to play ZA mercenaries in big budget movies. 😉
Can’t say it’s something I’m really fussed about – would be nice, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. The only thing that bugs me is when they completely mangle the accents & expressions.
For a really good ZA movie with a foreign lead who does a great accent & is otherwise filled with local talent, look at Stander.
November 2, 2016 at 10:56
For now, the big roles will go to big names. That is fine
The more exposure SA gets, the better our local talent will get recognized, and then maybe someday the Long Walk to Freedom remake will feature an actual South African Madiba
November 2, 2016 at 13:27
But then we won’t get to laugh at those accent abominations!
Seriously, I do think it’s a double-edged sword. Big international names means more media attention and interest than if local unknowns were cast. More money is likely to be made, but also the story is likely to reach more people. The trade-off is authenticity.
Honestly, I know I’m guilty of it. I tend to pay more attention when internationals star in SA-set films. And it’s definitely not a case of SA lacking talent to fill those roles. If we could get more stars breaking out at an international level then I think this “impostering” would happen less. However, they need to be seen to achieve that, and we’re largely stuck in a vicious circle.