Without question, Into the Woods, since opening Christmas Day, has done well at the box office, considering it’s made twice the film’s budget. Nearly a month later, Into the Woods is still running in theaters and packing in the crowds. However, does the cast of Into the Woods lack diversity? Many answer with a resounding yes.
Since Thursday, when Oscar nominations were announced, the internet has exploded with accusations that the Academy voters failed to nominate diversely, most notably in the acting and directing categories. According to the New York Daily News, all 20 of the actors nominated are white and no women were nominated for directing or writing.
Not only has there been heated debate over the Oscars, but there’s also been discussion surrounding the lack of diversity in the cast for Into the Woods — even before the Oscar outrage. A person of color is not seen until a third of the way through Into the Woods, but the actor is in the background as an extra. Later in the film, there are a few more non-white actors, but they’re all extras as well.
The question is why?
Casting director Linda Lowy, who casts for Shonda Rhimes’ shows Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, shares her thoughts.
“I don’t know if it comes down to the casting director or if it comes down to the filmmaker — it’s hard to know who is making those final decisions. Somebody high up in the chain needs to be demanding diversity and inclusion (and saying), ‘We have to have this feel like reality.’ Even if it’s a fairy tale.”
Actress and star of Orange is the New Black and Selma, Lorraine Toussaint, talks about the lack of opportunity for non-whites in Hollywood. She says the absence of color is very noticeable in the sci-fi and fantasy genres where characters can be any ethnicity.
“Sci-fi is my favorite genre. I am steeped in fantasy and horror and sci-fi, but, my God, I have yet to be cast in anything resembling what’s going on in ‘Into the Woods.’ I don’t take anything from those actors or from the work or the creative vision, I just think the dominate culture doesn’t even think about it.”
Anna Klassen of Bustle wrote an article about what she sees as the “one fatal flaw” of Into the Woods.
“I have no qualms against any of the actors cast — I truly think they all did a fantastic job, but how refreshing would it be to see a diverse cast?
We’ve seen a million and one fairytale iterations starring the Aryan race, so it is a failed opportunity not to explore other options.
The film asks you to question everything you know to be true, to question what is right and wrong, and most importantly, to see beyond stereotypes.”
While the Disney film adaptation of Into the Woods lacks diversity, at least one of the major roles will go to a person of color in a theater production. Tituss Burgess will play The Witch in a new Carnival Studio Theater production set to run January 22 through February 15 in Miami. The Witch has traditionally been played by a woman.
Sondheim reportedly gives blessing for witch in “Into The Woods” to be played by gay man http://t.co/ZMlLlQOgbS
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) January 13, 2015
In 2012, Burgess told the Huffington Post as an openly gay actor he wants his work to “be representative of his life”.
“I try to write in a perspective that’s both a representation of [myself] but also doesn’t alienate those from any other walks of life. My young sisters and brothers in the LGBT community… they need assistance.”
The question still remains — why can’t Hollywood seem to accomplish diverse casting and not just cast for the sake of diversity? There are plenty of talented actors and actresses of varying ethnicity who could have been cast in Into the Woods. Yet, they were not.
USA Today reported their requests to speak to Into the Woods director Rob Marshall or others associated with the production were declined.
Into the Woods has been nominated for three Oscars in the following categories – Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Meryl Streep’s performance as The Witch, Costume Design, and Production Design. The 2015 Academy Awards will take place on February 22, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.
Into the Woods releases on DVD March 24.
Do you think the cast of Into the Woods is lacking in diversity?
[Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures]