So Clint Eastwood will direct the untitled Nelson Mandela biopic. Whether you like Eastwood's latest ventures of Gran Torino or Flags of Our Fathers, Hollywood has thrown him the wheel and he's in the Mandela's driver seat. Eastwood has also cast Morgan Freeman as Mandela which will probably be Freeman's role of a lifetime. Eastwood has also cast his son Scott Reeves in the flick, which is cool-cool. A little nepotism never hurt anyone in Hollywood.
But here's my issue: Somebody of color should be directing this film. I certainly think Eastwood's talented and a master craftsman. Most writers and directors of color get few chances in Hollywood. And when we do get a chance it's usually a project that's historical and political in content [i.e. Talk to Me, Cadillac Records]. A simple story from "colored" folks is rarely greenlit. When a brother or sister rolls into a producer's meeting pitching the story of a young man who falls in love, well, folks give you that patronizing "what is this" look. Unless that young man is a slave, a civil rights worker, or a laughing, hee-hawing buffoon, it's not happening. In most cases.
Don't get me wrong. Many of us have figured out that momentum-building in this industry is all about strategy. But I just wish Morgan Freeman would have told Eastwood: "Look, Poppa, I appreciate your gift and casting me in this baby; but could you take a breather and let an artist of color do this? They're already crabs in a barrel in this industry. In truth, an opportunity to direct a biopic about the man who gave his life to the Apartheid struggle might be a sincere step forward in addressing issues of social change in Hollywood."
Wishful thinking, I know. But revolution has to start somewhere.
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.