Faces of Middle Earth

D

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Just wanted to highlight this article I came across in response to a tweet from Ludi Lin (actor in the recent Mortal Kombat).


Just think it's well worth keeping the discussion fresh but to also acknowledge a well done for everyone who has already made efforts to make sure our Middle Earth does feel like a complete world in which many voices, faces and races exist.

Let's keep making sure this fictitious film we are creating has a range of faces and voices in front of and especially behind 'the camera'.
 

Odola

Active Member
Just wanted to highlight this article I came across in response to a tweet from Ludi Lin (actor in the recent Mortal Kombat).


Just think it's well worth keeping the discussion fresh but to also acknowledge a well done for everyone who has already made efforts to make sure our Middle Earth does feel like a complete world in which many voices, faces and races exist.

Let's keep making sure this fictitious film we are creating has a range of faces and voices in front of and especially behind 'the camera'.
The only problem is that in accordance with texts the nations who geographically could look Asian are mostly the "bad ones". Or we could have the "bad" Numenorians raiding them for human sacrifices victims and have some local heros leading the resistance against them. But would that lead the story forward and not distract from it?
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Sure.It is true. Most Kung fu movies also lack diversity though, as do middle-eastern soaps and African action movies.

Depends what you want to make... an international world wide movie about diversity or a fantasy drama loosely based on european mythology. Writing europeans out of their own myths and forcing diversity into it also can't be the solution, i doubt anything good would come out of that.

I argued that the Elves could be very mixed and not all Eldar would necessarily be completely "white" (they all descend from some dozen families only)... yet we chose not to go that way because it would look odd if eldar and avari separate and... the Avari are all the asian and african people and the eldar all the europeans-we chose to simply ignore it.I am not very happy with that either, though i admittendly can understand the decision.

You can never make everybody happy. By book... i wouldn't have had any problem with sam Gamgee being played by a latino or Aragorn and other Dúnedain by egyptian or mediterranean actors... so, it is not there was never any choice to do other than they did with these films.Yet i see people on the net going crazy because some of the cast for Lotronprime include non-european actors, i am not on those guys side either,
 
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D

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The only problem is that in accordance with texts the nations who geographically could look Asian are mostly the "bad ones". Or we could have the "bad" Numenorians raiding them for human sacrifices victims and have some local heros leading the resistance against them. But would that lead the story forward and not distract from it?
I do think this is generally one of the more problematic elements of the project but was a decision made early on. The way to solve it simply though is with great writing. We just keep consistently (as is already being done) making sure that our characters are nuanced and believable. Bad guys only exist if they have a narrow focus. If you can believe in them then they become complex interesting characters, even if you don’t agree with all their actions.


Writing europeans out of their own myths and forcing diversity into it also can't be the solution, i doubt anything good would come out of that.
I’d agree if we were adapting actual European mythology. That said, The Green Knight has cast Dev Patel as Gawain and I don’t think it really matters a jot as he’s a phenomenal actor. Idris Elba was great as Heimdal and obviously that works because the conceit is that gods are real. Obviously their Norse worshippers then told of them in ways relatable to their people so it makes sense the ‘real’ gods didn’t look quite like the legends. Part of the complexity of our story is that, it has a history but that history isn’t reliant on natural evolution but rather life ex nihilo so a lot of normal mechanics don’t apply.

Depends what you want to make... an international world wide movie about diversity or a fantasy drama loosely based on european mythology. Writing europeans out of their own myths and forcing diversity into it also can't be the solution, i doubt anything good would come out of that.

I argued that the Elves could be very mixed and not all Eldar would necessarily be completely "white" (they all descend from some dozen families only)... yet we chose not to go that way because it would look odd if eldar and avari separate and... the Avari are all the asian and african people and the eldar all the europeans-we chose to simply ignore it.I am not very happy with that either, though i admittendly can understand the decision.

You can never make everybody happy. By book... i wouldn't have had aby problem with sam Gamgee being played by a latino or Aragorn and other Dúnedain by egyptian or mediterranean actors... so, it is not there was never any choice to do other than they did with these films.Yet i see people on the net going crazy because some of the cast for Lotronprime include non-european actors, i am not on those guys side either,
Yeah, people will always get mad when a traditionally white character is portrayed by an actor of colour regardless of how it affects the story.

I agree with you generally on our elf casting but also understand the decision. I think conscious choices have been made to include actors of colour though which is great. As long as those stories also get spotlighted.

At least not all our ‘gods’ are white!
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Gawains ethnicity plays zero role in the original as far as i can remember.And if it had the literary character was a guy of briton and roman descend so it wouldn't have mattered even because a lot of near eastern actors look like late antique roman people.

Personally my Gawain will always look like Sterling Hayden though.Nothing to be mad about.
 
D

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Gawains ethnicity plays zero role in the original as far as i can remember.And if it had the literary character was a guy of briton and roman descend so it wouldn't have mattered even because a lot of near eastern actors look like late antique roman people.

Personally my Gawain will always look like Sterling Hayden though.Nothing to be mad about.
This was my point exactly. When race isn't necessarily central to the character, I don't see that it needs to be central to casting. To use the Marvel example again: a black Johnny Storm is no problem. A white Black Panther would be catastrophically ignorant.

While we aren't actually adapting European mythology we could easily have had an all-black cast. It's not vital what race our initial elf actors are. However, once that decision has been made it only makes sense that their direct descendants general bear characteristics. Which is fine, a choice was made. It's not right or wrong, just where we are at. I still think we have a really diverse casting of amazing actors bringing real depth to their roles which is awesome.
 

Odola

Active Member
This was my point exactly. When race isn't necessarily central to the character, I don't see that it needs to be central to casting. To use the Marvel example again: a black Johnny Storm is no problem. A white Black Panther would be catastrophically ignorant.

While we aren't actually adapting European mythology we could easily have had an all-black cast. It's not vital what race our initial elf actors are. However, once that decision has been made it only makes sense that their direct descendants general bear characteristics. Which is fine, a choice was made. It's not right or wrong, just where we are at. I still think we have a really diverse casting of amazing actors bringing real depth to their roles which is awesome.
Could not work for elves though as "fair(y)" has the double meaning "pretty/light- skinned". And linguistic is central to the story.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
This was my point exactly. When race isn't necessarily central to the character, I don't see that it needs to be central to casting. To use the Marvel example again: a black Johnny Storm is no problem. A white Black Panther would be catastrophically ignorant.

While we aren't actually adapting European mythology we could easily have had an all-black cast. It's not vital what race our initial elf actors are. However, once that decision has been made it only makes sense that their direct descendants general bear characteristics. Which is fine, a choice was made. It's not right or wrong, just where we are at. I still think we have a really diverse casting of amazing actors bringing real depth to their roles which is awesome.
Well then you have the representations of characters in The Last Airbender, the film adaptation of Season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which don't really match their counterparts in the source material. The Last Airbender had many flaws (like putting Earthbenders in a valley and needing a half-dozen of them to move a single pebble) but this is one of the more notable ones that the characters didn't really look like themselves. For example, the Water Tribe is based off of the Inuit people yet are Caucasian; the Fire Nation is based off of Imperial Japan but are depicted as Asiatic-Indian/Middle Eastern.

A rather extensive wiki article on the topic.
 
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D

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Could not work for elves though as "fair(y)" has the double meaning "pretty/light- skinned". And linguistic is central to the story.
I suppose it depends on what aspects an interpreter finds central to the character. Obviously, in this instance, this was one of those.

Well then you have the representations of characters in The Last Airbender, the film adaptation of Season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which don't really match their counterparts in the source material. The Last Airbender had many flaws (like needing a half-dozen people to move a single pebble) but this is one of the more notable ones that the characters didn't really look like themselves. For example, the Water Tribe is based off of the Inuit people yet are Caucasian; the Fire Nation is based off of Imperial Japan but are depicted as Asiatic-Indian/Middle Eastern.

A rather extensive wiki article on the topic.
Yeah. That was bad. They really just dropped so many balls on that film. Funnily enough, I saw the film first but it was so forgettable it left no mark. Such a shame from M. Night. Shaymalan. Say what you will about his films, but one thing they normally are is memorable. The original show on the other hand is exquisite.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
While we aren't actually adapting European mythology we could easily have had an all-black cast. It's not vital what race our initial elf actors are. However, once that decision has been made it only makes sense that their direct descendants general bear characteristics. Which is fine, a choice was made. It's not right or wrong, just where we are at. I still think we have a really diverse casting of amazing actors bringing real depth to their roles which is awesome.
I disagree.Some ethnical patterns, though not very strict ones DO exist within the material and i would want a production to respect tgese, even if they are not a central topic.
 
D

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To each their own. I think some certainly play more of a role than others, for sure
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
There is more than ONE shade of white or fair or european or whatever.I don't see an adaption of the Lord of the Rings with all sub-saharan or east-Asian cast without completely twisting the material. That would be the "other extreme" i was talking about.
 
D

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If that were done I think it could be an interesting commentary on the source material or the general ouvre of fantasy it has spawned. A very different take with an additional angle. I’m thinking here of Lovecraft Country (admittedly, different in that it’s not a direct adaptation of a singular story by Lovecraft). I don’t think it would harm the material but it’s certainly be a conscious choice to do something with it. I think it’d be harmful generally if we’d gone with an entirely White European, proto Anglo Saxon narrative in our expansive fantasy world. Not considering racial diversity in that way is different to having a predominantly black (for example) cast to highlight a genre trope and comment upon its impact.

REGARDLESS, I was saying ours is good, let’s keep going.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
In the stage production of the musical of Lord of the Rings, Boromir was played by a black actor in both the Toronto and London productions. I am fairly certain that choice was made to make him stand out and be recognizable/identifiable in the large cast. Off the top of my head, I do not recall if either cast had other non-white actors. There are some cases where race does not need to make a statement and just 'is', but that is more common in theater than in film. And one could certainly ask of the musical - why Boromir? Why not another character? What does that casting choice say to the audience?

Race in fantasy film is something the audience is bound to take as symbolic of something, imbued with meaning. It doesn't need to be, but the audience is looking for that. And if the message is that 'other = weird/strange/evil', well...that's a choice. The island of cannibals in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film are a light-hearted and comedic representation of a scary dark-skinned group of people. Is that...okay? The film isn't asking that question, but the audience is allowed to.

There are animes where the central plot revolves around racial conflict, with clear parallels to real world events, such as terrorism in the Middle East or the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. If someone wanted to translate the story into stage or film, they would likely cast all Japanese actors to fill the roles, including the roles of characters who are clearly meant to be 'foreigners.' That is simply who is available for a Japanese-language production, and I doubt anyone would be surprised by those choices.

What makes the Lord of the Rings production at Amazon different is that it is certainly a large budget project with the capability of filming internationally. So, access to a broad talent pool is understood, and thus choices made are seen as limiting opportunities for certain actors. That is a question the industry needs to address. Not every actor would be appropriate for every available role, but certainly overly conservative casting policies often fail to consider anything beyond 'default' casting for roles. No doubt that is very frustrating for actors trying to find projects to get involved in. And then when someone does cast Idris Elba as the Norse god Heimdall the White, it is deemed controversial and there is this whole flurry about it....which is...maybe why conservative casting practices are what they are. Giving people what they are used to is considered 'safe'.

The way to solve it simply though is with great writing. We just keep consistently (as is already being done) making sure that our characters are nuanced and believable. Bad guys only exist if they have a narrow focus. If you can believe in them then they become complex interesting characters, even if you don’t agree with all their actions.
Say you are Hispanic. And every single role you are ever offered is 'gang member/drug dealer'. That likely gets old after awhile. Nothing wrong with wanting more variety in your career opportunities. And you typically hear about this when the actor does find a different type of role, and comments on how refreshing the opportunity was. I think that might be what has happened here - an actor commenting on having the chance to be part of Mortal Kombat, but not the chance to be part of Lord of the Rings. Simply commenting on reality.

But I agree that a villain role can be quite interesting. Consider the vampire Spike on Buffy. He's introduced as a villain. He stays a villain for some time. *Eventually* they give him an arc where he's maybe more of a reluctant ally, and has a 'romance' storyline with Buffy. But he started as a simple, uncomplicated, straight up villain. And that role was interesting and memorable from the beginning. Obviously that actor accepted it and agreed to play the character before finding out what the future storylines would be - he accepted the role of 'punk vampire recurring villain'.

The issue on Silm Film is that we are very seldom showing the story from the Villains' perspective. Occasionally, yes. We do have a story arc for Morgoth and Sauron, of course. But...most of the other villains lack that nuance. Since this is television, we have the time and opportunity to give the show a good deal of nuance, understanding what is motivating even minor characters to act as they do. But...orcs are simply bad guys. We don't plan to change that. Harad, on the other hand, we are seeking to portray in a sympathetic light in the Frame this season. The Haradrim aren't simply villains, and there are good historic reasons why they don't view the Numenoreans as heroes. We can tease out some of that history - Tolkien wrote it, he intended this as the backdrop. But, in the stories he wrote, he did not take the opportunity to go to Harad. We created that opportunity as an adaptation and interpretation of his work.


Since we are not a 'real' production, we cannot create opportunities for real life actors. It's all fantasy casting, and typically of actors who are famous enough not to need our help to further their careers ;). So, the Silm Film considerations of race in casting have always skewed heavily to a discussion of storytelling, and of how the casting choices further our story. We have not given much thought to the industry side of things, since...we are not part of that. But naturally actors do care about choices made in their industry and how it impacts their career opportunities!
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I really liked Lovecraft County at the beginning, until it developed into a sort of revengeporn near season 1s end. They really did their main characters no favour with it in my opinion.But i guess it is okay, it's modern days blaxploitation cinema, which is fine.But i am not into turning a Tolkien adaptation into something like this.It wasn't the authors intent.It is not mine.

I really looked up for quotes that gave us hints about how certain groups of people in Middle -earth do look.There are some quotes on dark skinned elves, it is only three or four and it is all from the book of lost tales.But if one wanted to have some more multi-ethnic elves, it would definitely NOT contradict the sourcematerial, even if none of them are main characters (maybe Maeglin and Ecthelion, but that is it.)

I am totally okay with having many Haladin and Beorians be played by mediterranian, latino or mid-eastern or indian actors, because it fits with the sources.I am more okay with it than replacing all of them with typical white western europeans. I though would not cast them as subsaharans or east asians also, because it is not in the material.

Theatrical adaptations are a different thing in my opinion.There is a big tradition of theater being very free with it's sources and also anouncing and stating that.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
But the real question is...which role in Silm Film would we cast Ludi Lin in? Any suggestions? He may not find a role in the Amazon series, but that doesn't mean he couldn't fit somewhere in ours.

A recent photo of him with his shirt on:


And, a more typical photo of him available on the internet:
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I would have cast him as an Elf... this opportunity now is over. Cast him as Khamûl in season 12 and i am a happy man.
 
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