Forest Whitaker to people of color: Our most profound stories remain untold
In an essay for Variety Magazine, actor Forest Whitaker wrote about the opportunities available in showbiz for people of colour today.
By Justina Terhember
Forest Whitaker is an actor, producer, and director. He’s also the co-founder of Significant Productions along with Nina Yang Bongiovi. In 2007, he became the fourth African-American male to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, following in the footsteps of Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, and Jamie Foxx. He wrote an essay for Variety magazine, in which he acknowledged being fortunate for the opportunities that have come his way as an artist during his 40 years in Hollywood.
“On set and on stage as an actor, behind the camera, and in the trenches as a filmmaker and producer, I’ve tried to make the most of my chances — while at the same time recognizing that the path for talents of color is and has been unduly fraught.”
Whitaker wrote: “On set and on stage as an actor, behind the camera, and in the trenches as a filmmaker and producer, I’ve tried to make the most of my chances — while at the same time recognizing that the path for talents of color is and has been unduly fraught. As a result, some of our most instructive, profound, and emotional stories remain untold, which means that audiences’ perspectives on our collective existence remain tragically limited. This was the endemic reality that my producing partner Nina Yang Bongiovi and I sought to extinguish when we formed our company, Significant Productions, over a decade ago. Our mission statement is simple: Provide opportunity.”
Whitaker wrote further that when he and Bongiovi teamed up with first-time filmmaker Rebecca Hall on a long-overdue adaptation of Nella Larsen’s landmark 1929 novel ‘Passing’, they saw nothing but opportunity: “For world-class actresses like Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga to craft complex, multidimensional roles too rarely afforded to performers of color; for an accomplished actress to bring a deeply personal story, 13 years in the making, to the screen; and for a Black female author’s essential storytelling to reach the kind of vast audience that would have been thought impossible 100 years ago.”
Whitaker also added that when they backed Ryan Coogler’s deeply personal directorial debut ‘Fruitvale Station’, it wasn’t an obvious calculation for many. “To take a risk on an unproven talent fresh out of film school with such a specific story to tell was anathema, but to us, it was clear that this is how we build the future. Nina and I felt that we needed Ryan’s voice in the world, a voice with the power and potential to shift the culture in Hollywood. His impact since speaks for itself, through the scope and global impact of films like ‘Creed’ and ‘Black Panther’ — films that have taken their own mighty swings at breaking through the plaque.”
Whitaker also wrote: “As hard-fought and at times harrowing I’ve found it to be for these kinds of stories to gain purpose out in the world, I’m as optimistic as I have ever been that they will continue to be told. The will is there. The talent is there. It’s incumbent on all of us to make sure the opportunity is there.”
Read the full essay HERE.
Attorney says Jonathan Majors isn’t the villain, video will prove he’s innocent
Jonathan Majors says he is the victim of domestic violence allegations that led to his arrest in New York. The actor’s attorney Priya Chaudhry released a statement on Sunday that the “Creed III” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” star “is completely innocent and is provably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows” and expects charges will be dropped.
The New York Police Department confirmed in a statement on Saturday that Majors, 33, was taken into custody after officers received a 911 call from a Manhattan apartment where a 30-year-old woman said she had been assaulted. The woman was taken to the hospital, the statement says.
On Sunday, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Majors had been arraigned on multiple charges, including assault and aggravated harassment. In the complaint, the woman claimed she was struck with an open hand, causing a laceration behind her ear, and suffered bruising and pain when “the defendant put his hand on her neck.”
Majors’ attorney says she is submitting evidence to the district attorney “with the expectation that all charges will be dropped imminently.”
“This evidence includes video footage from the vehicle where this episode took place, witness testimony from the driver and others who both saw and heard the episode, and most importantly, two written statements from the woman recanting these allegations,” Chaudhry said. “All the evidence proves that Mr. Majors is entirely innocent and did not assault her whatsoever.”
On Saturday, a judge granted a limited order of protection and released Majors on his own recognizance. The next court date is May 8.
Majors’ attorney claims the dispute occurred because the woman “was having an emotional crisis, for which she was taken to a hospital yesterday.”
“The NYPD is required to make an arrest in these situations, and this is the only reason Mr. Majors was arrested,” she said. “We expect these charges to be dropped soon. We look forward to clearing his name and clearing this up,” the statement said.
What led to Jonathan Majors’ arrest, according to police? Officers responded to a call within the 10 Precinct at approximately 11:14 a.m. ET Saturday. “A preliminary investigation determined that a 33-year-old male was involved in a domestic dispute with a 30-year-old female. The victim informed police she was assaulted. Officers placed the 33-year-old male into custody without incident. The victim sustained minor injuries to her head and neck and was removed to an area hospital in stable condition,” the police statement said.
Majors is a rising star in Hollywood, seen two weeks ago on the Oscars stage, presenting best cinematography with Michael B. Jordan. The Yale-educated actor, an Emmy nominee for HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” recently joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Kang the Conqueror and is slated to headline “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” in 2025. The actor stepped into the ring with Jordan as Damian Anderson in the boxing drama “Creed III,” and starred as real-life Navy aviator Jesse Brown in the Korean War drama “Devotion.”
Next up, he stars as an amateur bodybuilder in “Magazine Dreams” (set for release in December) and plays mercurial basketball icon Dennis Rodman in “48 Hours in Vegas.”
Disney absorbs Marvel Entertainment, sacks Chairman Ike Perlmutter
Per a report on Variety, Disney’s cost-cutting measures have reached to the top echelons of the company: Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, chairman of Marvel Entertainment, has been laid off, as his division — which is separate from Marvel Studios — is absorbed into other units of Disney.
Along with Perlmutter, Marvel Entertainment’s co-president, Rob Steffens, and chief counsel, John Turitzin, were also dismissed. A Disney spokesperson confirmed the departures.
The 80-year-old Perlmutter was at the center of activist investor Nelson Peltz’s months-long fight to join the Disney board. Variety reported in February that Perlmutter’s backing of Peltz was due at least in part to CEO Bob Iger’s decision to sever Perlmutter’s control of Marvel Studios in 2015, which reduced Marvel Entertainment to not much more than consumer products.
Peltz ended his proxy battle in February after Iger announced his plan to reduce costs by $5.5 billion, which included reducing the workforce by 7,000 employees, as well as the expected return of the dividend payment for shareholders by the end of 2023.
‘John Wick’ spinoff ‘The Ballerina’ to be released in 2024
As ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ continues to dominate the box office, Lionsgate executive Joe Drake revealed the studio’s target release window for the upcoming spinoff, ‘The Ballerina’. He confirmed that the studio is currently planning to release the Ana de Armas-led action thriller in either the spring or summer of 2024. Production for the first ‘John Wick’ spinoff movie took place in Prague and began last November 2022.
‘The Ballerina’ is directed by Len Wiseman, who previously helmed 2012’s ‘Total Reboot’ and five ‘Underworld’ films. Written by Oscar winner Emerald Fennell, the story is expected to follow a young female assassin as she goes on a mission to seek revenge against the people responsible for the murder of her family. Franchise star Keanu Reeves previously confirmed that the spinoff will be set between the events of ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ and its latest 2023 instalment.
The film is inspired by a scene from 2019’s ‘Parabellum’, where fans were introduced to the Ruska Roma syndicate, the organization that trained young boys and girls into becoming lethal assassins. Leading the spinoff is Oscar nominee De Armas who has signed for the role of Rooney. Like former Ruska Roma member John Wick, Rooney went through grueling and rigorous training at an early age, under the supervision of Angelica Huston’s The Director. In addition to Reeves and Huston, Ian McShane and the late Lance Reddick will also appear once again in their respective roles as Winston and Charon.
Besides ‘The Ballerina’, Lionsgate is also currently working on the impending Peacock premiere of its John Wick prequel series, titled ‘The Continental’. The 3-part limited drama will revolve around the origins of The Continental New York’s manager Winston, and loyal concierge Charon, who are respectively portrayed by Colin Woodell and Ayomide Adegun. The series is expected to chronicle how a young Winston Scott manages to establish a safe haven for assassins. In addition to Woodell and Adegun, it will also feature the introduction of Mel Gibson as Cormac and Katie McGrath as The Adjudicator.
As for the future of the main series, director Chad Stahelski recently revealed that he and Reeves are planning to take a hiatus from the blockbuster franchise following the theatrical release of ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’. ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ is now showing worldwide.