In an incredibly frank conversation with Vulture, actress Thandie Newton spoke about her decision to turn down a part in the remake of Charlie’s Angels starring Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and, in the role that Newton was considered for, Lucy Liu.
Newton said she was “massively affected” by the abuse, racism and objectification she encountered after she began working as an actress at age 16. Newton said she encountered “people that were doing the same [abusive] sh*t, and so I would challenge them or want to get out of it, or not want to work with people.”
One of those people, according to Newton, was former co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of that studio’s Motion Picture Group, Amy Pascal.
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I had a meeting with her, and she said, “Look, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but the character as written and you playing the role, I just feel like we’ve got to make sure that it’s believable.” I was like, “What do you mean? What changes would you have to make?” She’s like, “Well, you know, the character, as written, she’s been to university and is educated.” I’m like, “I’ve been to university. I went to Cambridge.” She went, “Yeah, but you’re different.” She’s like, “Maybe there could be a scene where you’re in a bar and she gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty.” She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character. Everything she said, I was like, “Nah, I wouldn’t do that.” She’s like, “Yeah, but you’re different. You’re different.” That was Amy Pascal.
Approached by Vulture about Newton’s account, Pascal said she was “horrified to hear” the characterization of their meeting.
“While I take her words seriously,” said Pascal, “I have no recollection of the events she describes, nor do any of her representatives who were present at that casting session.” The former Sony boss then added, “I’ve long considered Thandie a friend; I’m thankful that I’ve had the chance to make movies with her; and I hope to work with her again in the future.”
In 2015, Pascal stepped down from her position at Sony Pictures after and email hack revealed racially insensitive emails between Pascal and producer Scott Rudin about President Obama. In the private exchange, the two joked that the President’s favorite films were black-themed movies like Django Unchained and 12 Years A Slave.
Newton said a conversation with the director of Charlie’s Angels, McG, also influenced her decision no tot do the film.
“The director said to me, ‘I can’t wait for this. The first shot is going to be…You’re going to think it’s like yellow lines down a road, and you pull back and you realize it’s the stitching, because the denim is so tight on your a** it’s going to look like tarmac.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think we’re going to go down this road together.'”
It was a consequential decision for Newton who, at the time, was still establishing herself as an actress in Hollywood. Charlie’s Angels went on to make over $200 million worldwide. The 2003 sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, in which Newton may have also starred, earned even more.