Should non-Gutenberg actors be given the opportunity to play Gutenbergs if there are Gutenberg actors willing and able to play those parts? It’s an argument in the making, and one with serious implications for the future of casting in an industry fraught with controversy over who should play whom.
That controversy recently spiked with the announcement that Scottish actor James McAvoy has signed on to portray Johannes Gutenberg in Fox’s forthcoming biopic, Gutenberg. Josie Dawes-Mauro slammed the casting decision on her blog, Hollywould SO Be That Way, when she wrote, “Steve Guttenberg, an ACTUAL Gutenberg, has been LITERALLY sitting by his phone just WAITING for this moment and now it goes to some British MCU star who’s probably never even seen a real printing press in his pathetic life.”
Dawes-Mauro further pressed the issue by stating that “blacking up” is met with justified offense, while “Macking up” seems to be not only tolerated but validated with awards. Both involve actors mimicking someone from a minority group (in this particular case, Gutenbergs), taking a job from an actor who actually bears that characteristic and perpetuating that group’s under-representation in the industry.
Guttenberg (the actor), while not himself an inventor like Gutenberg (the inventor), is a Guttenberg, unlike McAvoy, a McAvoy. This painfully obvious disparity between McAvoy and the character he is charged with inhabiting has created a palpable ripple effect among industry insiders and the public at large, many of whom question the sensitivity and “wokeness” of such a brazen and anti-progressive move.
“I was born to play this part,” maintains McAvoy, who reportedly spent eight months preparing for the role before he officially joined the all-star cast which includes Kevin Costner and Henry Cavill. Costner is set to play Laurens Janszoon Coster (close enough) and Cavill will be performing as Prince Henry the Navigator (he might’ve been Portuguese but that was a long time ago so whatever).
Despite McAvoy’s insistence that the part should be his, Steve Guttenberg knows what it’s like to be a Gutenberg. Being a Gutenberg is his truth, something that he’s lived with all his life. While some have pointed out that roles ought to be given to those actors who are best suited to play them, still others have pointed out that Steve Guttenberg hasn’t given a memorable performance since he played himself in one episode of Party Down over ten years ago. This hurtful repudiation of such a storied career has made many of Guttenberg’s fans really, really sad. And isn’t that the real truth?
Will Hollywood ever come around and stop spitting in the faces of the talented actors who were truly born to play the roles of which they get robbed again and again (and have the names to prove it)? Until it does, we will never get to see Bill as Aaron Burr, Viola as Jefferson Davis, or Sophie as Tina Turner. Perhaps if Madeline had been given the chance to play Genghis Kahn (sp?), the rank intolerance currently on display could have been abated before our descent into the abyss of hatred in which we now find ourselves.
To quote Dawes-Mauro, “for an accurate portrayal of a Gutenberg, cast a Guttenberg. Steve can act. The more audiences see Steve and other Guttenbergs — Daniel, for example — the less impressed they’ll be with Gutenberg posers like McAvoy.”