In yesterday's review of A Mighty Heart, filed from the Cannes fest, James brought up a topic that I haven't given much thought to, but other people apparently have. Angelina Jolie's portrayal of Marianne Pearl in the film, for whatever emotional and preparational challenges it presented, also required Jolie to curl her hair and 'brown' her skin in order to accurately reflect Pearl's Afro-Cuban/French heritage. Most reviews being filed from the fest seem to reflect what James pointed out -- that it's not considered a big deal. As James wrote, "there's nothing insensitive or overdone in the mild make-up artistry of the part; the inner performance is what shines out." The press also realizes, I'm sure, that Jolie had a lot to do with shepherding this project into production and is the film's biggest selling point, so they wouldn't raise the pointless question of 'Couldn't the producers have found someone else to play Pearl?' I wonder, though -- would the press reaction be different if this were a fictional character? What if someone considerably fairer than Jolie, like Nicole Kidman, had taken the part and gone through the same make-up job?
There's also a sort of flip-side to the coin. During a recent press junket for her latest film, Perfect Stranger, Halle Berry talked candidly about her upcoming project, Class Act, a true story about a teacher who runs for congress. The teacher is white. "She's just this teacher who ran for public office," Berry told the press, "and that's a step in the right direction for me, because I've been fighting to just be seen as a woman and not always have my color precede me, so when [the producer] said 'wouldn't this be a great role for you?' I said 'you should ask her. Maybe she doesn't want her story portrayed by a black woman.' And she loved the idea."
These are weighty issues that can only be hashed out by the Cinematical readers, so I'll leave it to you -- what do you think about actors using makeup to alter their race for films, or simply taking on the roles of real people who are of a different race and not doing any makeup work?