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Rooney Mara pans out

In case you missed the rather glum-making news: it's been newly announced that Rooney Mara has been cast as Tiger Lily, the classic problematic representation of Native Americans as written down by an Edwardian Brit, in Joe Wright's new movie Pan. Details are still fuzzy, but the impression one gets is that it's an attempt to bring the dark-and-gritty approach to the Peter Pan story (an it's an origin story, too!), which isn't the first place I'd have expected the director of Atonement and Anna Karenina to go.

But let's not lose sight of the main thrust, which is that Rooney Mara is playing a Native American princess. Whitewashing in the casting process isn't a new problem, but I can't remember the last time it happened this vividly (it even makes thing worse, on a number of levels, to find that Mara apparently beat Lupita Nyong'o for the part). The filmmakers have indicated that they're creating a deliberately "multi-racial/international" take one the material, but with Mara joining Hugh Jackman and Garrett Hedlund as the confirmed cast members so far, one wonders if the PR flack who put that sound-bite out there is still living, what with his pants having erupted into flames and all.

The internet, including the Film Experience, has been busily discussing the issue of casting able-bodied persons as disabled characters these past few days; it's a conversation that needs to happen, but it's galling to step back and realise that we haven't even finished fighting the easy representational battles yet.

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Reader Comments (26)

I just have one simple question: will anyone give a f*** role to Lupita?! What are the studios, directors and that crazy people from Hollywood waiting for?

Maggie Robbie wasn't even nominated and she have already 3 films in the making. Oh wait, she is white, blonde and in her 20s.

Never mind...

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

This being a re-imagining of the story, it's doubtful Tiger Lily is still going to be Native American.

"with Mara joining Hugh Jackman and Garrett Hedlund as the confirmed cast members so far"

Adeel Akhtar joined the cast today as Smee.

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterava

Ava- You're almost certainly right (they're obviously trying to make it race-blind), but I don't know that it really makes me feel any better about it. Adeel Akhtar is a comforting development, at least.

March 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

I mean, casting Lupita wouldn't have been satisfying, either. It would stink of filmmakers thinking minorities are just interchangeable.

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterwill h

As if it weren't enough that Rooney Mara is a billionaire heiress cast in one of the few parts in the Western canon of literature reserved for Native Americans, she went and beat out Lupita Nyong'o AND Adèle Exarchopoulos for the part................I am sorrow.

And it doesn't help that I just do not get Rooney Mara. Between this, replacing Mia Wasikowsa for Carol, AND beating out a whole bevy of actors I love to turn in a tepid Lisbeth Salander, she is just asking for a place on the Swank list.

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I'm not talking about Lupita as a minority but as a fantastic actress who deserves a chance in this industry. But if you want talk about minorities let's see how many black actress have a successful career right now?

Kerry Wahsington is on tv. Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis are going in the same way.

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

The disappointing news isn't the white supremacist patriarchy that made the decision. But that Nyong'o is out of a high profile gig. I wonder if her Non-Stop producer Joel Silver can produce a Jumpin' Jack Flash level lead vehicle for her. Now all we need is a former television actress to direct?

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Lose sight. Not loose.

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterhannah

This feels very overdone because she beat out the new J.Law-esque obsession.

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

The funniest part is that even the actresses she beat out for the part were not Native American. I'm so sick of this.

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

TB summed up my thoughts on Mara. I thought her Lisbeth Salander was nothing more than the basics you would expect from any actress with basic competence, with nothing more/special. (This is also how I felt about Leo on Wolf of Wall Street; it was exactly what I imagined, nothing more or interesting).

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Hannah- Thanks, fixed

March 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

Ah, shades of Avatar: The Last Airbender casting all over again. I'm not surprised that the white washing occurred, particularly for a Native American character (hi Johnny Depp!), but I am surprised that it went through PR without raising eyebrows considering the Washington sports team brouhaha -- I would have thought that casting would be more sensible in Hollywood. That's a lot of probably overpaid, mostly white people who missed a huge red flag I gather.

Next up, Jennifer Lawrence as a fictional Sacawagea!

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFlickah

If you're going to get upset about it at least do your research. Tiger Lily is not a native american in this version. The Character profiles are not the same as they are in the Disney version. The cast is whitewashed so far but they've only announced three people, plus they just announced that Adeel Akhtar joined the cast today as Smee.

Also people need to stop getting upset that Lupita isn't being cast in every new movie, she's being very selective about the roles she auditions for (because she's a serious and intelligent actor) and sometimes she doesn't fit the directors vision as well as another talented actress.

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPMO

Yeah, what is this nonsense hysteric fretting about Lupita's next move? She's clearly being selective—don't commit her to racial victimhood so damn fast, people. She has more power than y'all are crediting her with, because, as some critics have pointed out, white folks are SO THRILLED about seeing what she can do. She will be offered many, many roles. It's picking the right ones and sustaining attention/interest over the next decade that will be her challenge.

But natch, she loses one nothing role to Rooney Mara and the sky is falling.

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W.

i dunno about you but i will boycott this film. who wants to see a peter pan remake anyway? get new ideas, racist idiots!

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterfilipinofilmbuff

I mean, name a Native American actress.

I'll wait.

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterM

M -- no need to wait

Q'orianka Kilcher -- 24 years old (same generation as Rooney Mara)... already carried a movie (The New World)

and implying that there aren't any is crazy. Hold an open audition and surely MANY will show.

March 14, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

M- Devery Jacobs, recently in Rhymes for the Young Ghouls, is the perfect fit.

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

one wonders if the PR flack who put that sound-bite out there is still living, what with his pants having erupted into flames and all.


March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

One of the TV channels I get is APTN (Aboriginal People's Television Network). It is chock full of First Nations/ Native North American working actresses and actors. There's a whole variety of actresses to choose from.

And didn't we just see Missy Upham in Osage County?

And even if you hated the Twilight series, they did a good job of casting the Native Americans in it. I saw one of those in a crowd of First Nations audience, and it was a real eye opener. It was suddenly a story about the kids on the Rez, with the white people just a minor distraction. There's a hunger for this representation.

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Kilcher was good in that Hawaiian princess movie too. She is a good actress and honestly is far more interesting that the epitome of bland, i.e. Rooney Mara (sorry Rooney lovers). Honestly, I'd rather see Meryl Streep in the role if you're going for pure acting ability. (That's a joke, kinda).

Irene Bedard is probably considered "elderly" in casting circles, but if I can pull her name out of my head, why can't any entry level casting director?

I agree with Nathaniel, cant' any decent casting director put out an open call and find some stunning Native American actresses?

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

so apparently, after carefully analyzing scripts I bet, lupita is doing "star wars" next.

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Well, Lupita is NOT adequate for a native american role as well. Non-germanics are NOT all the same.

Lupita would be just as bad and dishonest.

March 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Adri, that's a fascinating point. I didn't love the girl who played Tiger Lily in the P.J. Hogan version some 10 years ago, but props to them to casting someone who was a genuine Native in the role. In a racist world--including among children's literature (track down the original versions of "Dr. Doolittle" or "Mary Poppins")--I've always thought that Tiger Lily represented strength and courage and integrity (she refuses to crack even when she knows Hook will kill her). So I definitely agree that it's important to have Native actresses play the role--and that includes in the TV musical coming next Christmas.

March 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDback

Amir mentioned Kawennahere Devery Jacobs, a Native American actress who in fact auditioned for the role and was turned down because the filmmakers apparently weren't looking for an actual Native American to play the role. So much for colorblind casting.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

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