As Rooney Mara gears up for her second chance to win an Oscar this coming Sunday, she has recently released a statement in a interview with Telegraph on Monday about the controversial “whitewash” casting of 2015’s Pan. She played the (originally) Native American character Tiger Lily, which garnered much attention after the casting was announced. Discussing this topic now couldn’t be more relevant, especially after the ongoing debates around the racial diversity problems in the Oscars. Mara explained that she didn’t want Pan‘s, nor Hollywood‘s, diversity issues to be simply “another soundbite,” which is part of the reason that she has not spoken on the issue until now.
The 2015 film also stars Hugh Jackman and Garrett Hedlund, both of whom are also white actors. Warner Bros. had announced that they wanted this Peter Pan story to be “multi-racial/international – and a very different character than previously imagined.” Unfortunately those statements didn’t follow through too well with a petition that arose after Mara’s casting, which ended up getting approximately 97,00 signatures. In dealing with her particular situation, Mara stated that it was quite a “tricky thing to deal with.”
There were two different periods; right after I was initially cast, and the reaction to that, and then the reaction again when the film came out. I really hate, hate, hate that I am on that side of the whitewashing conversation. I really do. I don’t ever want to be on that side of it again. I can understand why people were upset and frustrated.
It’s clear that Mara is upset about how the film turned out, but whether or not this will change things in the future is hard to predict. However, when these types of issues arise, there’s just so much actors themselves can do to truly effect their outcome. Studios as well as the filmmakers are usually the deciding factors in casting and so major change like this can only really come from them. Mara could have turned down the part perhaps, but that doesn’t mean that the studio wouldn’t have just replaced her with another white actress.
I feel like that is what is happening. It is being turned into pull quotes and headlines, and that isn’t opening up a conversation so much as pointing fingers at people and taking their awards out of context. I don’t want to step into the conversation in that way.
Mara’s viewpoint is definitely an important and relatable one in the current flow of opinions on the matter of whitewashing and the controversy at the Oscars. Besides these recent comments, she is currently nominated for the romance drama Carol, which is a relatively big film because of its portrayal of a Lesbian relationship in the 1950s, so she’s a great showcase for how Hollywood celebrities can make crucial impacts, even if it’s just to get others like her talking.