Radar Online revealed on Wednesday that Sony executives advised via email that Denzel Washington should not receive a leading role in films that are released internationally simply because he is a black actor.
It was actually a producer that composed and sent the email to Michael Lynton, Sony chairman. Even though the producer stated their hopes of their statement not being viewed as “inappropriate or provocative,” the producer suggested that black actors should not be cast in order to appeal to “racist” international markets.
The producer, whose name was removed from the messages, even added their personal feelings about Denzel Washington as an actor.
“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.”
After explaining their personal admiration for Washington as an actor, the producer went on to explain the reasoning behind why he should not have been cast.
“Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works. He’s reliable at the domestic [box office], safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe…the non event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside… Here there isn’t a large inherent upside.”
Using the baseball analogy of hitting a double, the producer essentially claimed that they would not be able to hit a “home run” with two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington as the leading actor.
Even though The Equalizer ended up with 47 percent of its gross $191 million box office receipts from outside of the United States, the email thread suggests that 47 percent is simply not enough. Keep in mind that the estimated budget for the film was only $55 million. Based on the analysis provided in the leaked email, however, 65 percent in overseas sales is a more ideal figure to shoot for as a goal.
According to the producer, casting Denzel Washington in the lead role is what caused those numbers to suffer.
“I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist – in general, pictures with an African-American lead don’t play well overseas.”
Although the producer believes that the international audience can be racist, he or she also argues that satisfying those markets is a necessary evil in order for the movie to truly be successful on a global scale.
“Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximize returns and reduce risk, especially pics with decent size budgets.”
If the plans for a sequel to The Equalizer become finalized and the film is released in 2017 as scheduled, the producer claims in the email that it would have a “remote chance of a home run” but likely would end up being yet another “double” for the studio.
Denzel Washington was not the only actor targeted within this particular email thread. Both Kevin James and Adam Sandler were also named when referencing their upcoming film (and potential “double”), Pixels.
However, the producer admits that Sony executives may not have been able to do much in regards to pulling the plug on that movie, especially since they want to maintain their relationship with Adam Sandler – which will hopefully lead to a third installment of his hitGrownups franchise.
As of right now, Denzel Washington has not yet commented on the content of this leaked email.
[Image Credit: HitFix]