“Annihilation” Stars Natalie Portman And Jennifer Jason Leigh Responded To The Whitewashing Criticism
Oopsie daisy! Somebody let a book reading nerd into a press junket for the upcoming sci-fi movie Annihilation starring Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Much to their surprise, said nerd from Yahoo Entertainment let Natalie and Jennifer know they they just received lifetime memberships into club Hollywood Whitewash! And it’s a terrible club where they serve grocery store sushi and Justin Timberlake and Macklemore are in constant rotation.
Annihilation is based on book one of trilogy (The Southern Reach Trilogy, all published in 2014) by author Jeff VanderMeer. In the first book, no physical descriptors are used for the characters, they don’t even have names. They’re simply referred to by their profession. But Yahoo sent in a reporter who had gone ahead and got that extra credit by digging into the sequels only to find that Natalie’s character is described in the second book “as having ‘Asian heritage’” and Jennifer’s character is supposed to be half Native American. Zoinks!
After letting them know what time it was, The Yahoo reporter asked them to respond to criticisms of white washing. To their credit, both actresses immediately acknowledged that it was a real problem. To their discredit, how are you just now learning this?! Natalie had this to say (via Yahoo Entertainment. You can see the video at the link):
“Well, that does sound problematic,” Portman told Yahoo, “but I’m hearing it here first. “
Leigh said: “It’s probably a valid criticism. I didn’t know that.”
The film’s writer and director Alex Garland responded to earlier questioning about his casting choices saying that he only read the first book before it was published and so didn’t know the characters were specifically not white. Yahoo notes:
In fact, Garland deliberately refrained from learning anything about the sequels, because he wanted to take the story in his own direction. With VanderMeer’s blessing, he decided to make a deliberately unfaithful adaptation of the novel. “I took a really weird approach to the adaptation,” Garland told Yahoo. “I thought, I’m not going to re-read the book; I’m going to adapt it like a dream of the book.”
I don’t know guys, if Jared Leto can take the time to send jizz to his co-workers in the name of method acting, you’d think Natalie and Jennifer could read a couple of books to gain insight into their characters. It sounds like Alex really wanted to do his own thing with that first book. Maybe he didn’t want to pollute his vision by reading ahead. At least the rest of the cast is a sexy United Shades of Benetton ad (Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Benedict Wong, and Oscar Isaac are all in it). And who knows what might have happened if one of the leads wasn’t white!? Chaos. That’s what.
Enjoy the following gallery of the cast at the premiere looking like they are having the time of their lives.