Bill Maher has had his fill of “the casting police” who continually call out the industry for hiring actors for roles outside of their race or sexual preference, the last being John Leguizamo’s criticism of James Franco as Fidel Castro because the actor isn’t Latino.
“I mentioned this because a lot of people lately are either apologizing for or calling on others to apologize for playing roles. They call it appropriation,” Maher said on Friday night’s “Real Time.” “Appropriating sounds like an unforgivable sin until you remember that’s what acting is. That’s why acting jobs are called roles.”
Maher pointed out that Leguizamo has played a Colombian American, a Venetian, a French little person and an Italian plumber when he’s none of those things. “But he played them too… because he’s an actor! Why the hell do you think people become actors? Because they want to spend their life not being who they are.”
Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing gay civil rights martyr Harvey Milk, which, Maher said, was “considered a courageous act of solidarity for a straight male movie star to play a homosexual. Now it’s the opposite.” And Eddie Redmayne played a transgender woman in the “Danish Girl,” but now calls that a “mistake.”
“Does it then work the other way? Can trans actors only play trans characters ‘cause that’s not gonna be a good deal for them?” Maher asked. “And isn’t the best acting always about making us feel our common humanity beyond separate identities? A Black George Washington in ‘Hamilton,’ of course. But Ryan Gosling as Frederick Douglas? Yes, that would be problematic. Ditto, Shia LaBeouf, ‘Shaft’? No.
Ana de Armas’ casting as Marilyn Monroe in the upcoming “Blonde” get a thumbs up from Maher, “even though she’s Cuban with an accent,” he said. Then, an idea popped into his head: “Hey, maybe she should play Fidel Castro and James Franco can play Marilyn Monroe and then we can all stay in our lanes. Is that what diversity and inclusion look like now? Everybody staying in their lane?”
A lot of actors have crossed over into that casting lane and have “caught hell” for playing roles outside of their race, religion or ethnicity: Emma Stone for playing Hawaiian, Jake Gyllenhaal for playing Persian, Johnny Depp for playing Native American. “Spoiler alert, he also doesn’t really have scissor hands,” Maher joked.
“This is regression and it’s frankly, typical of so much wokeness that doesn’t build on liberalism, it undoes it. Empathy — putting yourself in someone else’s place so you can understand them better — used to be the very heart of liberalism. Now it’s considered offensive because don’t even try to put yourself in my shoes.”
Watch the video above.