Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Biopic for Anthony Mackie

Entertainment press has done many reports over the years on how the opportunities for minority actors are dwarfed by the number of opportunities for white actors.  Don't get me started.  It does make one wonder when checking IMDb online.  That's the Internet Movie Database.  Channing Tatum has 5 films in development.  Taylor Lautner has 3.  Adam Sandler has 10. One of my favorite young actors, Anthony Mackie, has 1 movie in development.  I've blogged about this gifted young man before.  Besides having Broadway work on his resumé, he also has roles in two winners of the Best Picture Academy Award to his credit.  Mackie boxed in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, the Best Picture of 2004 winner co-starring Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank.
Co-starring with Jeremy Renner, he played a member of the elite Army bomb squad unit serving in Iraq in Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, the Best Picture of 2009 champion.
He played Tupac Shakur in the 2009 biopic, Notorious, about rapper Notorious B.I. G.  He delivered as a high school student's irresponsible dad in the critically hailed Half Nelson co-starring Ryan Gosling as his daughter's drug addicted teacher.  A dapper Mackie had a key role in The Adjustment Bureau as one of those mysterious men in hats.
Entertainment news reported that Mackie is slated to hit the action/fantasy film scene as "The Falcon," one of the Stan Lee superheroes, in Captain America:  The Winter Soldier.  Say "Amen" somebody!  It's about time we got a minority superhero in Hollywood!
As I wrote, Mackie has only one film in development according to IMDb.com.  Maybe Hollywood just can't come up with any ideas for him.  So let me remind Hollywood of my Anthony Mackie biopic movie idea:  He should play Dr. Martin Luther King's most trusted advisor and the architect of the historic civil rights March on Washington -- Bayard Rustin.  He was outspoken, brilliant, controversial, a Quaker -- and gay.
Today, we have a black president who is pro-gay marriage.  Bayard Rustin helped free the path for Barack Obama's journey to the White House with the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech is now a great event in our modern American history.  Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the march and the man who introduced King to Gandhi's principles of non-violence, was there behind Dr. King.  Rustin was arrested in Pasadena in 1953 for being homosexual.
Because Bayard Rustin was gay, he was a minority within a group of struggling minorities.  That's how this important figure came to be called "Brother Outsider."  That's also the name of an award-winning documentary about him.  A few weeks before the March on Washington, it's documented that Sen. Strom Thurmond publicly denounced Rustin as a "Communist, draft dodger, and homosexual." He implied to the FBI that Rustin and Dr. King were lovers.  They denied the implication.  Thurmond was for segregation and against the civil rights movement.  This was in 1963 -- during the same exact time Aibileen and Minny are maids making snacks for racist housewives in The Help.
The time is right for this story.  I bet millions of Americans don't even know about Bayard Rustin.  I bet Mitt Romney has never even heard of him.  There's a school in the Chelsea section of New York City named after Bayard Rustin.  Besides all that, if Anthony Mackie takes my advice and does it right, he could have the words "Oscar nominee" in front of his name one day.  This we all know for sure:  The Academy loves actors who do biopics.  Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich, Nicole Kidman as writer Virginia Woolf, Colin Firth as England's King George VI, Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf, Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, Helen Mirren as The Queen, Philip Seymour Hoffman as another queen -- Truman Capote, Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin.  Each of those actors won an Oscar for playing that real-life character.  Oscar loves a real-life character performance.  Oscar especially loves it when that real-life character is dead.  Then your acting job seems like a bigger challenge.  That's Hollywood.  Rustin was on a humanitarian mission in Haiti when he died in 1987 at age 75.  His March on Washington pressured Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The march was covered live in special network news telecasts and also topped the international news.
College-educated and an accomplished tenor, the native Pennsylvanian sang in a short-lived Broadway show starring Paul Robeson.  Rustin travelled to Europe, Africa and India.  In America, his sexual orientation caused drama.  He was rejected by some of the very people whose cause he championed.  Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell was one such person.  Information says Powell threatened to tell people that Rustin and King were lovers if Rustin wasn't removed from a certain position.  Think of what segregationist Strom Thurmond implied to the FBI.  With all his skills, Rustin had bouts with unemployment and low-income jobs due to race and sexual orientation.
For the rest of his life, Dr. King's main advisor continued to be a passionate activist for racial equality, economic justice and gay rights -- issues America still deals with today.  Lee Daniels, Best Director Oscar nominee for Precious, is currently directing a true White House story called The Butler.  Oprah Winfrey is one of the stars.  Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda have been cast as Ronald and Nancy Reagan.  Robin Williams and Melissa Leo star as Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower.  Nelsan Ellis, the actor who plays Lafayette on HBO's True Blood, got the role of Dr. Martin Luther King.  The Los Angeles Times reported that Lee Daniels will also direct Hugh Jackman in a true story.  In Orders to Kill, Jackman will play William Pepper, a real-life attorney and activist.  Pepper, who is still alive, was convinced Dr. King's 1968 assassination was the result of a conspiracy, not a lone gunman.  I think the time is right for a Bayard Rustin biopic -- and I think Anthony Mackie is the right actor to play him.

"To be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true." ~Bayard Rustin




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