Monday, February 28, 2005
Steve Sailer is right that Morgan Freeman deserves some more interesting roles, but Freeman's dignity is his greatest asset. It would be kind of silly to cast him in a role that didn't let him use it. But there are lots more intereting things to do with dignity than just stand on it.
Why not make a decent movie of Othello for a change? There's a man who knew how to use his dignity . . . and who lost his marbles when he thought his dignity was lost. It would be a great role for him.
Or, here's a thought: cast him as King Lear. Do an all-black King Lear! Akira Kurosawa did it in Japanese, and it worked great! You could cast Freeman as Lear, Angela Bassett as Goneril, Jamie Foxx as Edgar. Ice Cube as the Fool! It would be awesome!
Actually, I think we should do lots more all-black Shakespeare. To heck with colorblind casting. Here's a project for Chris Rock to put his money behind: do the complete works of William Shakespeare with top-drawer all-black casts. Start with the greatest sequence of history plays, because they are the best vehicle for molding a cast into a real company: the great family saga and political epic that begins with Richard II, extends through Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and climaxes with Henry V.
Morgan Freeman would be perfect for John of Gaunt (unfortunately, it's the same dignified old guy he always plays, but heck, it's Shakespeare, so let's make an exception).
Denzel Washington would be able to stretch a little bit as Richard II, the self-absorbed lousy king who becomes a great poet even as he loses his crown. (Hint to Mr. Washington: play Richard II as if he were James Baldwin, and you're half way there.)
Lawrence Fishburne would be a great Henry IV, charisma wrapped around brute force. Watching his relationship with his son in Henry IV part 1 would be a reprise of Boyz 'n' the Hood, and watching him decline in Henry IV part 2 would give him a chance to stretch as an actor.
Will Smith would make a very interesting Prince Hal - he's maybe a little too likeable, but I'd rather err on that side, because the text gives us enough things to be ambivalent about Hal, so it's a good thing if the actor makes him likeable. And I'd like to see Smith play an aristocrat playing at being everyman instead of just playing an everyman.
I think there are lots of choices for Hotspur - it's a real scene-stealing role - but in my own mind I see Cuba Gooding Jr, who would certainly have great fun with the part.
And of course, for Falstaff, the only possible choice is Bill Cosby. Properly directed, this would be the triumph of his career.
The tough part would be the direction. Someone who is both very strong with Shakespeare (a decided rarity on stage, to say nothing of film) *and* who would make the best use of his black cast. Ideally you'd pick a black director, but I don't know if there is one with the Shakespeare chops and the cinematic chops. Anyone have a suggestion?
So: how do we get this ball rolling? Who knows a guy like Cosby or Freeman and can make the pitch? Once we get rolling, believe me, all of black Hollywood will be clamoring to get on board.