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Hollywood Hates Chris?

Written by: Graeme Wood
18.12.14

 

chris-rock2Comedian Chris Rock has never been shy of controversy and his recent appearances have certainly proved it, during an interview on the Late Show this month he brought up choke holds and did a ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’ gesture when fellow guest Sting appeared, quipping that he was afraid of ‘the Police’.

He then chipped in with the WWE have better standards than the NYPD because of their ban on choke holds before adding ‘no better way to calm down angry Black people than British royalty!”, referring to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s timely visit to New York.

The comedian was being interviewed to promote his new movie Top Five but has also been making headlines following his thoughtful essay printed in December’s Hollywood Reporter. In the essay"Top Five" New York Premiere Rock looks back on his career within Hollywood, the future of the industry and comments on L.A.’s race problems.

Rock recalls how he was invited into the movie Beverly Hill Cop II by Eddie Murphy after Murphy had seen his stand-up routine. Rock went onto to stress how he had attempted to pay it back “I try to help young black guys coming up because those people took chances on me. Eddie didn’t have to put me in Beverly Hills Cop!

Keenen Ivory Wayans didn’t have to put me in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. I’d do the same for a young white guy, but here’s the difference; someone’s gonna help the white guy. Multiple people will. The people whom I’ve tried to help, I’m not sure anybody was going to help them.” Rock mentions how he recommended Saturday Night Lives’ Leslie Jones to several big name managers before SNL’s Lorne Michael brought her onto the show.

“It’s a white industry,” Rock wrote. “Just as the NBA is a black industry. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. It just is”. In what reads as a thoughtful, critical deconstruction on the Hollywood system Rock gives his views on how difficult it can be for Black actresses to break into the industry and springs to the defence of Mexicans living in L.A.;

“Forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is; Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You’re in L.A. you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans. It’s the most liberal town in the world, and there’s Rock2a part of it that’s kind of racist – not racist like “F—you, nigger” racist, but just an acceptance that there’s a slave state in L.A. There’s this acceptance that Mexicans are gong to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn’t exist anywhere else. You’re telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that’s true?”

Rock however, was optimistic for the industry’s future; “there are black guys who are making it: Whatever Kevin Hart wants to do right now, he can do; I think Chiwetel Ejiofor is a really respected actor who is getting a lot of great shots just because he’s really good; if Steve McQueen wants to direct a Marvel movie, they would salivate to get him. Change just takes time”.

Rock’s assertion that Hollywood is a white industry could be seen as a provocative but correct conclusion given that Black films account for a tiny fraction of the big studio’s output. Budgets tend to be small, and distribution is limited largely to domestic theatres.

There is room for debate however as a Bloomberg Businessweek report recently concluded that in each year between 1990 to 2009, at least five African-American films were among the 100 biggest moneymakers in the US and Canada. Comedy remains an important genre at the Black box office with December alone showing seven African-American films ranked among the top 100 so far this year grossing nearly a quarter-billion dollars in the domestic market. According to a report from the Motion Picture Association of America, the demand for African-American film makes financial sense, drawing support from increasingly diverse audiences as well as the sizeable proportion of African-Americans in the U.S. movie-going population. Blacks account for about 13 percent of the domestic film audiences, and the average black person sees about four films in theatres a year.

But Rock asserts; “I really don’t think there’s any difference between what black audiences find funny and what white audiences find funny but everyone likes to see themselves on-screen, so there are some instances where there’s a black audience laughing at something that a white audience wouldn’t laugh at because a black audience is really just happy to see itself”. “Now, not only are black movies making money, they’re expected to make money – and they’re expected to make money on the same scale as everything else.”

Rock’s movie Top Five which he wrote and directed was made outside of the big ‘studio system’ because, Rock says, of how the industry views ‘Black movies’. The film co-stars Rosario Dawson, top fiveKevin Hart, Whoopi Goldberg, Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union and Tracy Morgan. Rock plays Andre Allen, a famous comedic actor trying in vain to create interest in his new film, “Uprize”, an earnest, misbegotten epic about the Haitian Revolution. The film digs under the surface of show business, politics, rap and the exigencies of being black and famous in today’s world. The movie opened in the US in December to rave reviews and comparisons with Woody Allen’s best work.

“Top Five” arose from a quiet beginning, Rock didn’t tell many people he was writing it and he shot it independent of any studio, while the cast was augmented by comedians he considers to be friends. The movie had its première at the Toronto International Film Festival last September where it inspired a standing ovation and an auction for the distribution rights which were won by Paramount for a reported 12 ½ million dollars!

The film is due to open in the UK in March 2015 and we are currently talking to the distributor; so hopefully Kush Promotions will be working on the PR/Marketing campaign for the film.

Stay tuned to www.kushfilms.com for further news.

Read Chris Rock’s full essay on the state of Hollywood in the Hollywood Reporter here; http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/top-five-filmmaker-chris-rock-753223

Read Entertainment Weekly’s Review of Top Five here;
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0%2c%2c20881400%2c00.html?hootPostID=220aaedf8e8bfc75a3a4dd76760c8b0c