Angela Bassett thinks Woody Allen is racist

critics choice 4 090109
Several years ago, Angela Bassett had some harsh words to say about Halle Berry’s Academy Award-winning role in Monster’s Ball. Bassett said that she had been up for the role, but had refused it because she thought the character was basically a bad stereotype. This was greeted with many asking themselves “What is Angela Bassett talking about?”

I bring this up because Bassett seems to make a habit of complaining about the roles offered to, written for and given to African-American actresses. There’s a lot to complain about, for sure, but Bassett’s attitude may be the reason she, in particular, is lacking juicy roles. Bassett’s most recent comment was about Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, in which there’s only one black character. The Telegraph has more:

Although Woody Allen’s latest film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, has been seen by the critics as a welcome return to form for the director and won its star Penélope Cruz a Bafta award, Angela Bassett, the acclaimed black actress, has her reservations about its cultural authenticity.

“I mean, to have one black cast member for the whole film seems rather strange, and, oh yes, she’s a prostitute, of course,” said the actress who portrayed Tina Turner in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do With it? “Don’t get me wrong, I love Spain and it looked beautiful, but that part of the world is so diverse and, really, what is that about?”

Although Allen has succeeded in signing up Sir Anthony Hopkins and Josh Brolin to appear in his next film, which is set in London, the 50-year-old American actress added that she had herself no desire to work for him. “I wouldn’t want to,” she told Mandrake at the premiere of Notorious, a film about the late rap singer the Notorious B.I.G. “He’s a little weird.”

Miss Bassett is not the first person to point out the prevalence of white faces in Allen’s films. When Spike Lee, the black director, was criticised for allegedly not featuring many white characters in his films, he was quick to point out that Allen had very few blacks in his.

Allen robustly disputes that he is a racist. His wife is Soon-Yi Previn, whom he married in 1997. She is the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, his former wife. When they married, Allen was 56 and Miss Previn 22.

From The Sunday Telegraph

I’m actually a big Woody Allen fan. I like films with a lot of dialogue and interesting, neurotic characters. But I’ve never fooled myself into thinking that Woody’s films are any kind of racially representative universe. Woody’s films usually only have two groups represented: Semites and non-semites. Does this make Woody a racist? I doubt it. It just means he probably has no history in which to base a really well-written African-American character. But give Woody some credit. Though Vicky Cristina was lacking good parts for African-Americans, it had juicy roles for two Spanish actors – Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

The race debate comes out nearly every year around the Oscars, sometimes good, sometimes bad. In the past seven years, African-American actors have picked up major prizes around the world, like Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker, just to name a few. Perhaps Bassett should just stick to the larger argument: African-American women, as well as all women of color, should have better characters, better writing, and more work. Don’t beat up on Woody Allen, when he’s just one of many who haven’t written enough roles for women of color.

Angelina Bassett is shown at the Critics Choice Awards on 1/8/09. Woody Allen is shown at a press conference on 9/21/08. Credit: WENN

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79 Responses to “Angela Bassett thinks Woody Allen is racist”

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  1. Asiont says:

    Spain is not that diversified.

  2. Mrs. Darcy says:

    I agree Woody’s writing range probably does limit him, although he did have an interesting African American character in Melinda and Melinda (think it was Chiwitel Ejifour (Sorry if mispelled). I can see how Bassett would be frustrated, she is a fantastic actress,sadly I think age is as much a factor being a woman. I don’t think her trash talking Allen is going to do her any favors though, it is pretty widely acknowledged his European films are about as far removed from societal reality as you can get (he makes England seem like nothing but posh rich people, etc.)

  3. RAN says:

    I don’t care for Angela Bassett – she has an arrogance and an entitlement attitude that doesn’t appeal to me. However, not necessarily the Woody Allen thing, but the point Kaiser makes… there aren’t many roles out there for strong black women – unless it’s a cultural type movie, which isn’t something that’s often made.

  4. Rreedy says:

    The world doesn’t revolve around this actress….who would want to work with someone spewing this stuff? Movies are movies, stories are stories, some with characters of diverse races, some not. GET OVER IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. vicsmith says:

    She’s had a bad attitude for a while. Look at her commercials for ER. She always looks angry. Whenever she doesn’t win an award, it’s racism. Whatever. Who wants to see her smirky face and I doubt she could have carried off the vulnerability needed for Monsters Ball.

  6. CandyKay says:

    Angela Bassett has been around Hollywood for a long time, and I’ll bet she knows a lot of people. Why doesn’t she produce her own films, starring strong black female characters? I’m sure there’d be a market out there for quality films like that.

    Or, as Spike Lee himself said after the Crown Heights riots – “Why don’t black people open their own damn vegetable store?”

  7. Maritza says:

    I can’t stand Woody Allen (he looks like a pervert old man)and a neurotic, his movies are just like him. And I agree about Angela Basset she is sort of a snob, but a great actress.

  8. mercedes says:

    I`m from Spain and I agree with Asiont. Spain is not diversified at all. As a matter of fact, there aren’t any relevant figures such as politicians, actors, writers, models, journalists, artist, doctors… that are from other races or countries. Even our national football team only has one black player whereas other European countries have many players from different origins and races.
    Our country used to be really closed to others and since we lost our colonies three centuries ago, contrary to other european countries that still had colonies in the twentieth century, we didn´t have people from other races. I’m 21 and I remember that the first time that I saw a black person was when I went to the states when I was 12. I mean our country was poor and our people had to migrate so it was highly unusual to see foreigners other than tourists.
    This started to change ten years ago when Spain, due to the economic developpement started receiving people from south America, Eastern Europe and northern Africa. SO given that we are talking about first generation immigrants, they are not integrated in spanish society, at least not to the point of being portraited in a film as if it was something normal.So Woody Allen is not being racist. He is just reflecting spanish society. In this case, Angela Bassett shoul have informed herself better. But this doesn’t come as a surprise. After all she is doing the same as many of her peers. People that lack from college, and most of the times high school education and speak as if they were experts, pontificating and pretending to be qualified to give an informed opinion on whatever issue their Pr team decides that they should comment upon.

  9. Mrs. Darcy says:

    Re:vicsmith’s comment:

    Looking at the commercials for ER does not give a full picture of her character on the show, yes she is fierce but already after only a few episodes in the UK they are showing more sides to her, she lost a kid in the Thailand tsunami for goodness sake, I think her character is going to develop into something really special. She is not doing herself any favours lashing out at the industry but it doesn’t take away from the fact she is talented.

    • Vbabygirl says:

      Actually, Angela Bassett DOES have a college degree and so do many professional actors. I agree do agree that her comments revealed a lack of knowledge of the ethnic/racial make up of Spain however, you can’t blame that on the lack of college education (afterall, going to college does not qualify ANYONE to be completely informed of EVERYTHING in the world). Actually, I believe her comments are more out of frustration for not getting as much quality work that her talent deserves.Also I don’t see anywhere in the article where Mrs. Bassett called Woody Allen a racist. Clearly the writer is getting all up in arms over her criticizing Allen’s CONSISTENT lack of diversity when casting other ethnic groups (By the way Spike Lee has made a number of movies where he has casted several non black actors from Jungle Fever to Do the Right Thing). She NEVER said he was racist (and by the way, having an Asian wife DOES NOT mean you can’t have issues with African Americans or even Asians overall for that matter). She was just pointing out the fact that he could invest in diversifying his casts, scripts, etc. In the future. Mrs. Bassett has the right to state her concerns and issues with the way Hollywood works and that includes pointing individuals who are guilty of perpetrating practices. Part of dealing with an institutionalized problem is to call out individuals who are taking part in it.

  10. barneslr says:

    He is an old pervert that married his own daughter. Yes, I know she was adopted, but she was still raised with him in the father role. He is a sick, twisted, perverted individual.

    But, I have never heard that he is racist.

  11. exiled2hp says:

    Maybe if the movie titled was Vicky Detroit City, I was argue that there was only 1 black actor, but Barcelona? Come on Angela, that’s a stretch. This world has enough issues, without random BS statements like that. Also, what is so stereotype of a single Mom working as a waitress? That was a good roll that she gave up and the comments were just sour grapes.

  12. exiled2hp says:

    wow, sorry for all the typeos this morning (my husband’s grandma just passed away this morning) However, I feel I got my point across (spelling issues and all).

  13. J-Lin says:

    Right on Angela!

    She should have won the Oscar for her role as Tina Turner.

    As far as people saying she’s a snob, Angela is a Yale-trained actress that is confident in her craft. It’s funny how I don’t hear people saying Sharon Stone or Susan Sarandon are snobs.

    And why should she have to make her own movies? So they can be labeled black movies? Angela is asking why are people of color marginal in the world of major film makers.

  14. J-Lin says:

    I’ve been to Spain and I have seen many black people. Hell most Spanish people are darker than me!

    Exiled – you are an ass. Don’t get out much, huh?

  15. SolitaryAngel says:

    Sour grapes, Angela? She’s nothing special–get over it already.

  16. Feebee says:

    Well he’s weird but racist? I’ve never seemn many of Tyler Perry’s movies but I didn’t notice many white faces in the trailer (I’m not saying that’s bad). I don’t think many movies makers are thinking about a white:black ratio. How many of us thinking about our friends in terms of cultural makeup and ratios?

  17. raven says:

    Mercedes, Angela Bassett graduated from Yale, one of the top universities in the US. She is an amazing actor. Nonetheless, I certainly believe your description of the demographics of Spain.
    And I also agree with those who say her attitude has probably lost her roles.

  18. N. says:

    I think all actors and actresses should have boycotted Woody Allen, not for being a racist, if he is, but for MARRYING HIS DAUGHTER!
    Disgusting. His career should have tanked after that. I have personally never seen a Woody Allen film for that reason.
    But Chris Brown’s career will never recover…if it’s proven that he did abuse Rihanna. Then how on earth did Woody Allen, a pervert who slept with his daughter then married her, get away scott-free!!!!!

  19. Shay says:

    I wouldn’t exactly call him racist. But not knowing any black people to draw from experience isn’t a valid excuse. We eat, drink, sleep, have family and friends, and do everything else that any other human being does. It’s not that hard unless you erase the sterotypes you have of black people out of your head. If Spike Lee can do it then I’m sure Woody can too. That being said he has the right to do whatever movie he likes and I also have the right not to watch them.

    As far as Angela I probably wouldn’t have stated that publicly. A complainer isn’t a good look. I guess though if Woody can marry his adopted daughter and continue to get his movies done then Angela can call him a racist and not worry about her career.

  20. Crystal says:

    I don’t think Woody is a racist. A creepy weirdo maybe. But not a racist. However, that being said, I do think that today’s movies still do not have enough diversity in them. It’s got to be frustrating to highly trained actresses, such as Angela Bassett, that there are not enough good roles out there for woemen, especially women of color.

  21. kiki says:

    I been to Spain too
    there is not that many black people. even thou its just a little distance from Africa
    I dont people here in the United States understand how racist Europe is against dark skinned people.

  22. FF says:

    Look, I’m all for more black actors in visible, challenging roles but I’ll never understand the presumption that people are somehow obligated to put more black characters into their script. They’re not. And the only person a writer has to be true to is themselves when they’re writing (maybe later with the person who’s bankrolling the film but that’s debatable and individual to each project, and probably not a problem if you’re a name and your films make money).

    Anything that comes of their typewriter is not an objective reality but their view on a fictional reality. And if people want to walk away from a film and use that to base their opinions on a certain group then it’s sad but what Bassett needs to be doing is finding a way to represent an alternative rather than being critical about other artists work.

    All it does is get everyone’s back up.

    And if Woody Allen wants to put a black prostitute in a film then that represents his ideas for this particular piece of writing. If he had a black prostitute in every movie he ever wrote then that would represent a stereotypical view and likely racism but as far as I’m aware he hasn’t.

    Now I’m the last person to defend Allen, I think I’ve only seen a couple of his films but I think what Bassett is really concerned about it what people take away from that image and she probably feels that a more positive image will minimise racial stereotypes in people’s minds.

    To be honest though, I think people respond to the ideas they already have to a greater or lesser degree. And I don’t really like her idea that black characters have to be nothing but exemplary models of society. I understand it comes from the many decades of black people being negatively portrayed but I think that idea ultimately cuts actors off from portraying the humanity or shortcomings in any character.

    Sometimes I’m not suprised there’s an avoidance of non-white characters because there’s always some part of the community riled by a portrayal of a character being stereotypical. On the other hand too, being to analytical sometimes kills the artist ability to create (whether it’s writing, dircting, acting) and lot of writers won’t self-examine.

    So personally I’m more on the side of letting people write and direct as they want – so long as it isn’t actually inciting bigotry – and having a wider representation.

    Implying Allen is racist isn’t going to get that representation. She might need to nurture some new talent to get the representation she wants, and then she has to ensure the product makes money. No one said it’ll be easy but I’d say it beats complaint any day.

    The other thing is, just because an audience member is black and a character on screen is black – yes, there’s identification but that doesn’t have to mean that’s the only character that audience member has to identify with solely because of that.

    Also challenging roles mean just that – you have to take some heat to present characters not just role models. I was rather annoyed at her comments about Berry’s role at the time and still am.

    As for the black character being a prostitute – yes, that can be seen as a negative but I still think that presentation has a lot to do with it. Is the portrayal of a human being or of a cardboard cut out? Kerry Washington played a prostitute in The Dead Girl and I the merits were in her performance so I hard to call racism just because a role can be conflated with a negative stereotype used to demean black woman. It’s how the character is represented and how they are involved (or not) in the story.

  23. G.Newman says:

    It seems that Ms. Bassett has had a chip on her shoulder for a very long time. I admired her performance as Tina Turner, Passion Fish and other roles. She is beautiful and extremely talented. Sadly, her limited perspective will continue to derail other opportunities and alienate others.

  24. Emily says:

    I lived in Spain for three months and a half. Spain may not be as racially diverse as the US but there are plenty of immigrants from South America and North Africa. People tend to forget North Africans aren’t black (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria). I also lived in Malaga in the South so maybe there are more North Africans living there then in Barcelona, where I just went to this past weekend. I noticed plenty of Hispanics working in restaurants in Madrid. Just because there aren’t a lot of black people doesn’t mean the country is strictly “white.”

  25. vicsmith says:

    Mrs. Darcy,

    I agree she is a talented actress but many find her attitude and angry persona quite off-putting. She’s complained so much, it’s all I think about when I see her. And that ain’t my idea of entertainment, no matter how fine the talent.

  26. chick says:

    “Don’t beat up on Woody Allen, when he’s just one of many who haven’t written enough roles for women of color.”

    How about not defending him either. Just because other men have beaten up on women doesn’t make violence an excusable offense. Get my point?

    Stop blaming the victim. Angela is not wrong. I happen to adore Woody Allen’s movies as well, but it is a fact that he is exclusionary in his vision. Angela is only calling it like she sees it. I applaud her courage for speaking the truth.

  27. Trillion says:

    I lived in Valencia, Spain (I think it’s the 3rd largest city there) and my roomate was a Black woman from Guyana. The way she was treated was unbelievable. Outright, unabashed curiosity from people as though they’d never seen a Black person before. I swear, that entire year we saw only one other Black person there. That being said, however, I’m sure Black women and Asian get tired of seeing themselves constantly portrayed as “the prostitute”. Then again, some great white actresses have played hookers: Jennifer Jason Leigh comes to mind. Seems like she plays one in every third movie she’s in.

  28. ll says:

    Bassett isn’t the only one who finds Berry’s role in Monster’s Ball a sad stereotype – I was actually just reading something on Shapely Prose this weekend where a queer black activist was saying the exact same thing. It’s not sour graped, you know?

  29. ll says:

    grapes! sour grapes! Darn typos.

  30. anna says:

    Woody allen had another film (Deconstructing Harry) where the lone black female character played a prostitute.

    Maybe Angela has a point — I wouldn’t say Allen’s racist, but he’s perpetuating a jungle bunny/jezebel stereotype… maybe that’s all he knows.

  31. Persistent Cat says:

    Totally off topic but I hope I look that good at 50.

  32. kate says:

    i think woody allen is a great director – “manhattan” is one of my faves- but let’s be real: he is an elderly jewish man, he is not spike lee. his experience is not the black expreience, it is the new york jewish experience, and he has never tried to portray himself otherwise. angela is a talented actress but maybe she should just worry about her own films.

  33. Libelle says:

    I guess Woody Allen wants to write about things he knows or about things he has thought about before. And he’s European. I’m too and I know that during my whole school life there has been one single black student in the whole school. Lets imagine Woody allen would make a film about my school . Why would he make this black boy the main character who represents this schools students when most of them are not black?
    What I want to say is that he doesn’t mean to be a racist. He just wants to tell a story about the things he encountered and most of those stories probably happend to (or are most likely to happen to ) white people. Can you really blame him for this?
    It would be different if he would want to write about a boy who is the only black guy in the whole school and woud make this the main plot of the story, how this boy struggles with it. but I guess for Bassett this also would be a stereotype role for a black guy to play.
    This whole issue about sterotype roles (especially race related stereotypes) is very difficult. There is much pride to be hurt.
    For example: In my city there are not as many black people as in an average american city. But when I come by a house where prostitutes work there are only black women working there. If I told anyone my observation they would call me racist or assume that only black women are prostitutes and when they’ll come to my city they assume that every black women they see is a prostitute.
    Of course nothig is right , I was just stating a statistical fact without to comment….
    But people always like to make stereotypes because it is easier to deal with new situations if there are people who might fit into a stereotype and it makes a conversation more predictable….That makes it more stressful if a person doesn’t fit into a stereotype or a person who doesn’t like the stereotype he/she is always put in and wants to show that it doesn’t always fit…

    So it is a dilema for people who write stories. Should they go for characters who represent most of the people or should they always choose the non stereotype character because some people might be pissed and are tired to hear about stereotype they’re supposed to fit in but don’t?

    ( In addition, what is mostly to be found can change , but stereotypes often don’t change this fast…)

    Sorry for my grammar and bad language skills and I hope I made it clear that this comment was by no mean ment to be racist.

  34. TxBreed says:

    I agree with Mrs. Darcy… I think she is a good actress however in this last role she just performed in (Notorious) I think she should have had a Jamaican accent being the woman she was portraying is Jamaican and has a strong accent.

  35. Annie says:

    Oh yea, I have to agree with everyone else: Spain is not that diverse. Heck, the places colonized by Spain to this day, still tend to be very racist and have a caste system. (Take a look at Mexico if you don’t believe me.)

    I’m not defending Woody Allen or any perception of his potential racism. But it is true that Spain isn’t diverse.

    Besides, she’s upset? How does she think I feel when every frickin’ asian person in any movie/tv what-have-you is a master at Kung Fu, who can’t see and drives poorly. Wtf stereotype much? African-Americans are not the only race that suffers, though the stereotypes people portray them as are F-ed up, forsure.

    Personally, my world would be much much nicer without any form of stereotypes for any color, but I think as long as we continue to raise awareness of the issue, it can only get better?

  36. lrm says:

    You know,some films are meant to feature a particular aspect of a location,or a subculture,or a dominant culture…films are meant to be art,not politically correct educational mouthpieces about what the world is like for every da*n human being on the planet,or,er,in a particular location.
    Sure,’that part of the world is so diverse’-in fact,most parts of the world are more diverse than they’ve been portrayed as [china is a good example]. Somehow,it’s as tho’ the holocaust is the only tragedy that deserves recognition and blacks are the only group who’ve experienced racism.
    Honestly,if Allen didn’t want to branch out and include an epic history of the spanish moors in his film,so be it. It does not make him racist. Weird,I’ll give her. But not racist based upon the fact that his films are made from HIS worldview/experience. What topics are interesting to him? Hmmm…he’s a NY Jew,and in this film is exploring an american in spain [and in matchpoint an american in upper brittish class circles.]
    How ridiculous to think how boring films would be if they always had a global village look.
    Oh yea,and most women’s roles,black,white any color,as bad stereotypes. so are most men’s roles. Truly,it’s the rare film that explores,expresses and exemplifies (any other ‘e’ words?) the human condition with honesty and realism.

  37. lrm says:

    Stop blaming the victim. Angela is not wrong. I happen to adore Woody Allen’s movies as well, but it is a fact that he is exclusionary in his vision. Angela is only calling it like she sees it. I applaud her courage for speaking the truth.

    Um,yea,but he’s not required to be inclusionary. This is what people are missing. Honestly,attack the big budget action movies and theme movies for not being more diverse,but not the indepent-ish artists for filming their vision. That is the point of art-of course an artist’s vision will be theirs. DUH. I can’t believe some of the comments here….Some of ya’ll are brainwashed to be the new international,politically correct,global citizens. Free expression and creativity are the point of films. [Not movies,but films.]
    Let Allen explore themes that draw him in,just as Spike Lee does.He’s not obligated to cover topics just b/c it’s polite or politically correct or even humane to do so.
    Remember: You can choose to not see a film or support a director/actor. And people are meant to discern and make decisions for themselves,not have a menu of options put before them.
    I don’t care how much racism still exists in the world; it will never disappear through censorship. Period.

  38. NotBlonde says:

    Annie: I’m pretty sure she’d agree with you about Asian characters. She’s bringing up the problem with a lot of films in that characters of particular races are usually portrayed in certain ways; especially women.

    A lot of people complained about that Halle Berry role, it wasn’t just Angela Basset.

    Angela Basset, to me, doesn’t seem to have a chip on her shoulder. She seems to just not be ok with dealing with bullshit and taking roles that negatively stereotype black women. What is so wrong with that?

    And she didn’t call Woody Allen racist, or say anything close to that. In context she seems to have been asked a question pretty much directly about African Americans in Woody Allen’s film. And he doesn’t have a lot of black people in his films. That is a simple fact. And then the only one in Vicky Christina Barcelona is a prostitute?

  39. ak says:

    It would be nice to see more colorblind casting. I.e., if the race or ethnicity of a character doesn’t really matter to the plot, then cast the best/most appealing/whatever actor. And make an effort to mix things up. But when Hollywood, being the hamfisted phonies that they are, tries to be inclusive, we end up with the perennial “black best friend” or “beloved Mexican cook who’s just like one of the family.” Or conversely, the dumb white neighbor who gets to “learn an important lesson” over the course of the movie. We just need more intelligent casting in general.

    Re halle Berry in Monster, I don’t see that character as a stereotype. If she weren’t poor and down-and-out, almost on the edge of collapse, she wouldn’t have been anywhere near being in a position to take up with Billy Bob’s character. That was the story.

  40. chick says:

    “I don’t care how much racism still exists in the world; it will never disappear through censorship. Period.”

    I care very much how much racism still exists in the world. But I do agree that it will not disappear through censorship which is why I never advocated censorship. I am arguing for inclusion. You know how there were no Black characters on “Friends” for years despite the fact that it was located in NYC? It is similarly absurd to produce movies that are supposedly rooted in New York but which have no minority characters. It is senseless exclusion.

    Will that stop me from attending Woody Allen movies? No it won’t because despite his limited vision, he is a brilliant and funny director. I can appreciate his brilliance while also criticizing the limited nature of his vision. That’s the beauty of democracy.

  41. Annie says:

    Oh yea, no that shit was fucked up. Definitely.

    And Halle Berry’s role was definitely controversial.

    To be fair, are we all that surprised he does crap like this? He’s obviously unaware of anything beyond his own perceptions of the world. For godsakes, he behaved like his daughter (albeit adopted) was some kind of concubine and then married her. *shudders*

  42. Annie says:

    I hate that minorities are always shown in a specific light. Like for the most part, the african american is a supporting role, he’s usually the kid from the tough side that’s like “You don’t know what it’s like dawg” and then you have the Asian-American kid who’s like the dorky lackey or the total “me love you long time” hooker.

    (Btw, to this day it annoys me that Trang Pak in Mean Girls has a Korean last name, but speaks vietnamese and was sleeping with the coach. AND she made vietnamese sound all ugly.)

  43. kaitlin says:

    Someone needs to tell the writer of this article that having Spanish people in a movie has nothing to do with race. Spanish people for the most part are still White, so what is your point? You’re refuting an argument about race with something that has nothing to do with race just to discredit Ms Bassett who I believe is dead on. So as long as we’re using non consequential information to defend our points, Woody Allen is a pedophile who should be in jail for his juvenile asian fetishes. So there.

  44. kaitlin says:

    BTW — Halle Berry sucked in Monsters Ball! And I don’t blame Angela Bassett for turning down the role. Halle Berry is not a very good actress and the only reason she received the academy award was to make black people shut up about the academy not honoring african americans. It was a slap in the face to give Halle an oscar for such a sub par performance.

  45. Whitney says:

    @ Mercedes im not sure if you’ve lived in america long enough that yale is one of the most prestigious schools in the country. A school from which ms. bassett graduated from. So i’d be remiss not to say that maybe you’re lacking. And is Ms. Bassett arrogant because she’s not shucking and jiving or snapping her fingers. She’s gorgeous, well educated and has the same pedigree and regal aura that our (excuse me, my) first lady possesses.

  46. Zoe says:

    Thanks FF, Libelle, and IRM for really thoughtful comments. I might not agree with every single last thing you say, but I totally appreciate the thought that went into your comments.

    Ahh, AK, lovely, so true.

    Writers write what they know. He’s an old Jewish guy. Go figure.

    Just wondering, for those of you who know Spain well, what percentage of the poplulation is Black? In the U.S., I think it’s around 10% or used to be, so what about representing reality?

    Didn’t Spike Lee come down on Clint Eastwood for not representing enough Black Americans in Letters from Iwo Jima, and he countered that he represented the same number that would be represented in reality based on simple population ratio… probably parphrasing like cr*ap…

  47. Bobby the K says:


    I don’t know why people keep calling him a ‘pervert’ etc.

    He never married or even lived with Mia Farrow (according to Wikipedia)and was never Previn’s legal stepfather. And Previn said he was never a father figure to her – though that maybe just to take the heat off.

    They’ve been married for something like 12 years, so there must be something like integrity in the relationship.

    I certainly don’t believe he’s a racist. I don’t know how you can be a jazz fan and be a racist, although I guess it might happen. He did in fact name one of his children after Sidney Bechet – a black dude. Not something a racist would do.

  48. chick says:

    “Writers write what they know. He’s an old Jewish guy. Go figure.”

    Agreed. And if all of his scripts consisted only of old Jewish people, I would totally validate your point.

    Woody Allen does however write about non-Jews as well. He is a man but his central characters are usually women. He is old but he writes believably about the angst of teenagers and young adults. He is married but he captures the yearning of the single. This is because he has the soul of an artist. But his vision has a limit — he places his characters in cosmopolitan contexts which he then depletes of all cosmopolitan references. That’s really the issue.

  49. ThatBKChick says:

    I am sorry CB, and others…it has taken since Hattie McDaniels (Gone with the Wind-The first Black Actor/ress to win back then), until this century for Black actors to get the acclaim that they have deserved. Yes Tyler Perry and other few Black Film makers: Spike Lee and others produce mainly for Blacks, because we still have a long LONG WAY to go because Hollywood are simply not being held accountable for their lack of supporting roles, films and screen/script writing for actors of color in general!

    Until we can see equal and quality programming supported and funded by major motion picture studios and t.v. networks, that do not show Black in a negative demise or not in a positive light, then Ms. Bassett holds the right to take Hollywood’s azz to task on the way they support Blacks in the media as a whole (t.v. sitcoms, motion pictures, play and screen writers, etc).

    I must give it up for Chelsey Grammar for one of the few silent heroes and powerhouses in Hollywood for funding and supporting Girlfriends (It ran 8 Seasons successfully). This was one of the most interesting all Black Cast shows, that did not show Black women in a negative light (Tracey Ellis-Ross, Diana Ross’s daughter).

    Just imagine, if there were more powerhouses that supported shows like Girlfriends, we would not be having this debate or discussion.

    I still cram to understand how in the hell Friends and Seinfield over the years, mainly supposedly shot in New York, rarely had any main characters and or people of color in those shows as well….I am from New York and how in the hell can you have shows that do not show or reflect the diversity of people in New York, with very few black, Puerto Rican and or actors of color? GO FIGURE?!!!!….Until then, we must hold what actors like Bassett say in this regard in seriously….it is still a Glass Ceiling” that has not been totally shattered….Look at Milk and Broke Back Mountain…we still have a long way to go!!

  50. Zoe says:

    @ Chick, great points.

    I did mean it a little more generally:

    he writes from a point of view he knows, ie. white, educated, neurotic (some might argue his Jewish experience informs the particular comedic “neuroticism” of his characters), funny, New Yorker, etc.

    He can write from the point of view of the young and single because he used to be young and single.

    I’m confused about how he “depletes all cosmopolitan references” his stuff always screams New York City to me. It’s like the City is itself a character, whether it’s referenced directly or not. God, it’d be so hard to really fully represent NYC and I just don’t think it’s anyone’s obligation to do so. To say it’s racism is just irresponsible.

  51. Tamara King says:

    I think a lot of directors write what they know the most about. Woody Allen usually writes mostly about New York and his Jewish ethnicity. Same for Spike Lee or Martin Scorcesse. I think some of best directors write on some kind of personal experiences. It doesn’t mean their racist.

  52. Tony says:

    here we go again…a white director with not enough blacks is racist a black director with no whites is just keeping it real!! So sick of hearing this!! I have watched many Spike Lee and Woody Allen movies and if either one of them is a racist I would say Spike Lee wins hands down

  53. NotBlonde says:

    SHE NEVER SAID HE WAS RACIST. Can people actually READ the story before they comment? Damn.

  54. chick says:

    Neither I nor Angela Bassett used the word “racist” to describe Woody. I have accused him of being exclusionary in his vision. I stand by that accusation and I say that with great love because I genuinely do admire his work.

  55. Micah says:

    I think a lot of people miss the point. Sure VCB is his latest movie, but anyone ever go to New York and see as few black people as a Woody Allen movie? Just because his latest example has a plausible rationale for ignoring other races, this is his M.O. (much the same as paying out his ridiculously impossible male fantasies). Woody Allen is a pervy douche that if he wasn’t a Hollywood director would be vilified for the child molester he is. The fact that he’s a racist only highlights his douchy-ness.

  56. Kerry says:

    I’ll never see a Woody Allen movie. Not because he’s a racist (I’ve never met the man so I’ll reserve my judgment)but because I have a severe allergic reaction to men who have sex with their daughters. He makes me vomit and gives me uncontrollable rage. Incestuous basterd!

  57. “Writers write what they know. He’s an old Jewish guy. Go figure.”

    Agreed. And if all of his scripts consisted only of creepy old men who seduce and marry their daughters, your point would be valid.

  58. Nicole says:

    As a black woman, I am honestly glad that he leaves black people, black issues, and the black vernacular out of his films. He is a nerdy little guy with little to no exposure to this community. Better that he doesn’t write parts for us at all, than write shit parts for us thinking that he “gets” black people. One of the people that comes to mind is Quentin Tarantino. He consistently thinks that he knows black people. The dialogue he writes for black characters is largely unconvincing (like a white kid who grew up in a, all- white suburb trying to do an ‘ebonics’ impression). Tarantino thinks he’s a down brutha. At least Woody Allen knows he’s just a little weenie. I hope he continues to stay away from writing parts for black actors, because I know they would suck.

  59. neelyo says:

    ‘Snobby’, ‘arrogant’, ‘entitled’, hell why don’t you just come out and say uppity?

    She does have a valid point. And it’s not the first time Allen has put a black woman in his films as a prostitute (that would be DECONSTRUCTING HARRY).

    And no Allen doesn’t have an obligation to include black characters in his films, but since his name has come up, Spike Lee has directed more movies starring white actors that were critically and/or commmecially successful (INSIDE MAN, 25th HOUR) than Allen has with actors of color.

  60. Sijoi says:

    Jose Ferrer won Best Actor – Puerto Rican in the 50’s, was married to Rose Mary Clooney.

    Rita Moreno won Best Supporting Actress – Puerto Rican in West Side Story

    People of colour have gotten the big prize.

  61. sandy geer says:

    Angela Bassett has the right to her opinion. It’s amazing how many people on here are defending a straight up pedophile. THis is a sick twisted man who constantly denigrates women in his films and shows a shocking lack of diversity. I can’t stand this man. He is a hack. He took naked pictures of his stepdaughter and seduced her. He is a sick man. Mercedes…ANgela Bassett graduated from Yale, one of America’s top colleges. She is much more intellectual and intelligent than you will ever be. It’s shocking how you are judging her education without even knowing her history.

  62. Heather C says:

    the word “racism” gets used a little too much to the point that it is losing its meaning. I have noticed a lot of accusations against others, mainly whites recently, in regard to being “racist”. I also think that whites are tired of the perceived victimhood on the part of others who are not white. I am not a big fan of Woody Allen but I have enjoyed Ms. Bassett in some roles she has played. Frankly; however, I am tired of the empty accusations.

  63. cmoody says:

    I know no one is going to read this, but I have to say that Angela Bassett never actually calls Woody Allen a a racist. She asks whats up with the one character being a prostitute. What she does call him is weird. Which I guess people could take offense to.

    As for the Monster’s Ball thing. The simple fact of the matter is that while the character was a completely sad stereotype, Halle Berry sucks!.

    The woman couldn’t act surprised if you stomped on her foot. The fact that there are more talented black women actors out there who will never get the fame or careers or even the acknowledgment of their talent that she gets regularly without deserving it is enough to make me pull my own hair out.

    Don’t get me wrong. I hate that she and Denzel both won oscars for playing stereotypes. But, at least Denzel is talented. Halle is the same wide eyed nothing really there character in every single movie. She might as well be making BAPs over and over again.

  64. illgirl79 says:

    Starting off-topic, then on-topic, then drifting off-topic again.

    1. Re Zoe’s comment (in part) “Didn’t Spike Lee come down on Clint Eastwood for not representing enough Black Americans in Letters from Iwo Jima, and he countered that he represented the same number that would be represented in reality based on simple population ratio… probably parphrasing like cr*ap…”

    Last time I checked, the Armed Forces were run as mostly segregated forces until President Harry Truman’s executive order to de-segregate the forces in 1948. While I was not alive and not at Iwo Jima or even know anyone personally who was, the segregation issue could have been a factor in how Clint Eastwood presented the narrative.

    Flags of Our Fathers focused primarily on the folks who placed the flag on the island, and they did not happen to be of African descent as noted by historical documents, I have a hard time saying Clint Eastwood was racist for not including more black actors in the film. African-American military units were an important part of history (just think of the Massachusetts regiment in the Civil War), but they were not part of the World War II slice Clint Eastwood chose to focus on during his film. If he had filmed a slice of history about the segregated units, he might have faced criticism from people anyway. Who does an Anglo filmmaker think he is telling the story of people of color? Spike Lee, John Singleton, Tyler Perry, Oprah, and many others have proven people of color are perfectly capable of representing their own places in history.

    Is the issue that Spike Lee was disappointed because he thought Clint Eastwood’s film was a direct representation of history rather than a piece of art? Or is the issue that Clint Eastwood has more commercial appeal than Spike Lee? Does Spike Lee consider Clint Eastwood’s artistic slice problematic for the greater reach it could have with audiences, even though Clint Eastwood is hardly passing himself off as a documentary maker on the scale of Ken Burns? I think the criticism may be misplaced, but it’s hard to say in which direction. Clint Eastwood’s comment for Lee to “shut his face” and Spike Lee’s equally classy retort about Eastwood being a grumpy “old man” probably didn’t help the dialogue.

    If Spike Lee is really concerned about racism in Clint Eastwood movies, where was the outcry for the way Native American Ira Hayes was presented in the movie? Could it be that Spike Lee accepted Ira Hayes was an alcoholic in real life, regardless of his Native American background? Could it be that Spike Lee accepted Clint Eastwood’s decision to show how post-traumatic stress affected the post-war lives of all those who survived their service at Iwo Jima, even if someone might have thought it promoted stereotypes about Native Americans and alcoholism? No, I think I’m just being too kind about people’s motives.**(Last sentence may be read with hint of sarcasm or humor.) 😉

    I respect both Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee, but sometimes directors become so focused on their own perspectives that they forget about allowing others to express their own worldviews. Both have the right to express their grievances with the others’ works, but ultimately the person whose name is on the film should get the say about the actors or actresses they cast. How the market (viewership, box office, whatever) chooses to respond to the directors’ choices is an entirely different matter.

    2. I get the impression Ms. Bassett’s comment was taken out of context and “spun” into something else to get more attention. I do not feel she called Woody Allen racist, and calling him “weird” is hardly new either.

    3. There does seem to be agreement for the most part that Woody Allen is eccentric, regardless of one’s feelings about his work. Many folks do find it strange that he left Mia Farrow for his pseudo stepdaughter. The age difference alone wouldn’t have made it entirely weird, as some younger women have been going after various successful older men for ages. The difference in ethnic backgrounds didn’t make it strange. The (not legal but sort of) family dynamic did. In a sense, Vicky Cristina Barcelona does represent what Woody Allen knows: f&$@ed up human relationships.

    4. Angela Bassett shouldn’t have to make her own work to find rewarding roles in Hollywood. That said, if the industry isn’t making enough decent films for more mature women of color, maybe she should consider her own production company or go back to stage work. It might not be her first love, but it would give her the opportunity to show more Hollywood execs that audiences will respond to good acting performances regardless of a person’s age or color if the writing and production are solidly done.

    5. Where I’m coming from: I’m half-Filipino, half-Scottish, Anglo, etc. blend living in a small midwestern college town. My ruminations are not meant to be racist. If someone interprets them as such, I consider it unfortunate but would never discourage folks from expressing their views on the matter.

  65. BeautifulNahla says:

    I like Angela Bassett as an actor. But she and Halle Berry was supposed to be friends. And she still put Halle on front street?! I think she had a case of the jealousy. Everyone has their right to an opinion. But I think it would be better for her career if she would stop making so many waves. BTW Halle Berry was great in Monster’s Ball! She won GET OVER IT and MOVE ON!!

  66. Sally says:

    Woody Allen is a douche bag. His movies are boring and stupid. He married his daughter. He’s a disgusting perv and the only reason any body paid attention to that stupid vicky movie is that it had a three way in it.

  67. Susan says:

    I may be wrong, but I think Berry’s role in Monster’s Ball could have been cast as a white woman – does that make is not stereotypical, I don’t know. But I think it would have been a lot less nuanced and less interesting if it were a white woman.

    I also think she was very good in that movie.

  68. lilkunta says:

    NORTH AFRICANS ARE AFRIkAN! yes they have different genes that give them different hair textures & sometime lighter skin, but they are Afrikan!

    Emily, February 16th, 2009 at 5:28 pm I lived in Spain for three months and a half. Spain may not be as racially diverse as the US but there are plenty of immigrants from South America and North Africa. People tend to forget North Africans aren’t black (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria). I also lived in Malaga in the South so maybe there are more North Africans living there then in Barcelona, where I just went to this past weekend. I noticed plenty of Hispanics working in restaurants in Madrid. Just because there aren’t a lot of black people doesn’t mean the country is strictly “white.”

  69. Rosanna says:

    For one, it’s clear that Bassett has never been to Spain (or Italy or Greece) because the diversity she speaks of simply does not exist here.
    For two, movies aren’t scientific experiments, so they don’t need to “represent” precise racial demographics, just to tell a story.
    And just to be clear: I can’t stand Woody Allen, but Bassett is out to lunch.

  70. Take_This! says:

    I don’t know enough about Woody Allen to judge whether he is racist or not, but this quote “Does this make Woody a racist? I doubt it. It just means he probably has no history in which to base a really well-written African-American character” is contradictory. Mr. Allen has enough history to create a black prostitute but not enough history to create a normal black person. Makes me wonder where he gets his history from, maybe arian nation? If Spain is so void of blacks, then what is a black prostitute doing in his representation of Spain?

  71. Andy says:

    Hey, she got to star in Meet the Browns. NOt a great movie, but she isn’t a great actress either.

  72. I care less about what all these celebrities say about each other to get noticed in press and to promote their movies/products. I am more interested in read about the social work done by the celebs. I occasionally visit London to get glimpse of the celebrities who visit parties and in the process I like to get a all inclusive flat in London on rent.

  73. Tell it Like it is says:

    1) Angela Bassett is a superb actress and if you think she isn’t you’re welcome to your own opinion,but I wouldnt be surprised if it was one solely based on ignorance, you’ve probably seen her in 1 movie and have jumped to that stupid conclusion. I am welcome to my own opinion as well.

    2) Woody Allen has had tons of exposure to black people from whence to base a character from, he grew up in Midwood Brooklyn for God’s sake! NYC period! He went to Midwood H.S., as a life-long Brooklynite and a black person, COME ON! Cultures are not so oil and water in NY and his films would have you think they were, he isn’t brave enough to venture to exploring those other cultures enough PERIOD. After a 50 year career he’s just been able to do something stepping out of the white, Jewish socio-cultural path. His marriage to Soon-Yi does not validate his openness, it does validate his affinity for girls significantly younger, and some might say validates some white men’s yearning for that innocent, unassuming, subservient lotus flower the Asian female population is often depicted as. So please dont use this as some kind of proof that he is not racist. He is after all a “special” guy with idiosyncracies many of us would say are both uncomforming and odd.

    3) For the white person up there who has expressed regret at the perpetual “victimhood” of non-whites and the use of the term “racist”, your naivete is troubling and perhaps all black people are simply also tired of the perpetual “worthiness” white skin has afforded white people in this country. Hence Barack Obama in his 50% whiteness is considered a novelty in the role of President. Might it be b/c his “blackness” would have usually disqualified from such aspirations at all? Whereas if he were 100% white we’d all go on with the regularly scheduled program not ever acknowledging that hmm white skin does automatically raise you out of this “victimhood” you’ve referenced, for after all, when have white people been historically victimized in every walk of life in America. You act as if black people consciously choose to put themselves in that position… So please think about what you’re saying for a second unless you are of a class that thinks affirmative action victimizes the poor white masses out there then we’re up for an entire other conversation 😉

    Finally, no one can know for sure what bigoted thoughts or otherwise exist in this man’s head however, in this day and age his tendencies can surely be said to lean towards a world that isn’t as diverse as the world or America we’ve lived for more than 100 yrs!

  74. Brandi says:

    Angela, sit down. Stop being bitter. If she’s not worried about taking stereotypical roles, what exactly was her role in Meet the Browns? Exactly.

  75. He’s definitely marches to a different beat from the rest of us.

  76. karen4lee says:

    So, if he doesn’t know any black people and if Spain is not diverse and has mainly white people then why does the prostitute from Vicky Barcelona have to be a black woman? Why not make her white? Seems a huge stretch to go out of your way to cast a black prostitute in a world where that would not be common. Same thing with Borat’s film. It seems white men say “no we don’t know black people” but when they need to cast a hooker, boy do they know how to cast a black one. lol. Whatever. I boycott his films because he married the daughter of his ex wife. In no way is that ever acceptable. That is aksing the kids to adjust to some weird family lack of boundaries. He is a creep. if he was not rich, he would not be excused for his behavior. Creep.

  77. Mike says:

    Wait a minute since when did Spanish people become non-white? Using Vicky Christina Barcelona as an example of Woody Allen’s growing racial range is just terribly stupid considering both Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are as white as the white house. This is Spain, not Mexico or Colombia.

    Second of all, I’m not a Woody fan but he never once came off as a racist, like someone said, he writes from his personal experience. And I know Spike Lee hates Woody for not including Black people but he should shut the fuck up. If anyones racist, its spike lee…

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