We previewed a Richard Pryor “dramedy”, Some Kind Of Hero, in 1982 in Atlanta Georgia. Typically, you preview pictures early on, before the release, to gauge what is working and what isn’t. Before you lock the picture and send it out in the world, you still have time to fix it.
In Atlanta, the audience tore out 11 seats from the theatre while watching the movie — literally, they pulled the chairs out from the floor.
This was only thirty years ago.
Was it because they didn’t like the movie? Specifically, this audience did not like one specific thing: a black man kissing a white woman.
“It’s called some kind of hero, not some kind of heroes!” said the head of Production at Paramount Pictures, Don Simpson,. He was justifying changes to me.
“Cut the scene and cut the ending. Richard needs to go off into the sunset alone!”
Since we worked for a public company and needed to protect shareholder value, we made the changes and cut Margot Kidder largely from the picture. The movie ended up being a moderate success in America.
Is there a girl out there who could kiss Eddie?
I understand the absurdity of this today; but it was still a tender subject at the time and I was still smarting from the incident in Atlanta.
We tested and screened a hundred actresses for the female lead opposite Eddie. We cast Charlotte Lewis in the role. She was a lovely British actress with a dark complexion; in fact she was Irish, Chilean, and Iranian. There was a kiss, and no one ripped up the seats. We had found the right girl to kiss the black star!
Now, I am seeing racial reconciliation everywhere in pop culture and it doesn’t seem to be a big deal.
Just last night, the new Bond movie, Skyfall, has an inter-racial subplot. Meanwhile, Bradley Cooper and Saldana Zoe appear to be celebrating their racial difference.
Their bed scene serves as the poster.
Have we come to the point where it doesn’t matter anymore?