HOLLYWOOD—To combat rampant bigotry including the insidious “face-ism” in Hollywood, Amazon is casting butt-ugly actors to play roles played traditionally held by beautiful people. We interviewed Alexi Romanu, Chief Casting Consultant for Amazon’s ground-breaking new series, ‘The Rings of Power’ to get the scoop.
GT: How are you, Alexi?
AR: Fantastic, Jeremy. It really is a pleasure to join you in discussing the incredible stories and characters we’ve been developing.
GT: I can’t wait to hear all about it. If you don’t mind, I’d like to start with the Oliphant in the room: the elves. There’s been considerable backlash–especially online–in response to many of Amazon’s casting decisions. Not all of the elves in ‘The Rings of Power’ look like the traditional elves we’re all familiar with.
AR: Jumping right in, I see. Well, Jeremy, you’re right; our elves are different, and we made this choice deliberately. Tolkien–no doubt–was a literary genius. Fantasy, as we know it today, could not exist without his monumental contributions. Unfortunately, his works reflect the prejudices of his time. Despite all its wholesomeness, Tolkien’s Middle Earth is undeniably face-ist. All of Tolkien’s elves–without exception–are described as having beautiful faces. By contrast, we at Amazon want to create a Middle Earth that validates all faces, and that’s why so many of our elves are ugly. This hasn’t been easy, of course; we’ve faced quite a bit of opposition. Hollywood, as you know, has a serious problem with face-ism. Sure, there were always ugly actors, but, historically, they were only ever given bit parts, and the few who actually did land major roles had to work twice as hard. Hollywood has come a long way, but let’s face it (no pun intended), we’re nowhere close to seeing a Captain America with crooked teeth, acne, and a weak chin.
GT: So true, Alexi. I remember the first time I saw an ugly superhero on the big screen. Deadpool’s face was so revolting that I had to leave the theater. Truly a pioneer for facial equality. That said, what do you think about the particular criticism directed toward casting the ugliest actor on the face of the Earth, Ron Perlman, for the role of elf Glamníf?
AR: Well, Jeremy, we knew all along that some fans would be unhappy, but the question is: which ones? Who exactly are these people who feel so threatened by an elf who looks like an overgrown ape with microcephaly? Honestly, if all we stand to lose are the most radically face-ist individuals in the fan base, then good riddance, I say.
GT: And what’s your response to fans who say that their motivation isn’t face-ism, but genuine concern that modern adaptations respect the original descriptions of J. R. R. Tolkien’s characters rather than use their appearances to advance zeitgeist social agendas?
AR: First of all, I don’t think there are any such ‘non-face-ist fans’ who simply want to protect Tolkien’s universe. Second, how many people, do you think, actually look like elves? Based on Tokien’s descriptions of supernatural beauty, maybe one in ten-thousand, maybe no one at all. Representation is important, Jeremy. I can’t begin to express the impact it has for a little boy to see an ugly hero slay a monster and think, ‘he looks just like me.’ At the end of the day, that’s what it all comes back to: representation. Middle Earth ‘as Tolkien wrote it’ looks nothing like modern America. There are no practicing Muslims or Hindus, no Native Americans, not even any Republicans or Democrats. That’s the difference we’re making with ‘The Rings of Power.’ Our Middle Earth is made for everyone.
GT: Such a powerful message.
AR: Thank you, Jeremy. We at Amazon are truly passionate about facial equality. Beautiful people have always had the upper hand–and in nearly every way imaginable. Studies show that attractive men and women are significantly more likely to gain employment, earn promotions, find a spouse, receive help from strangers, or be elected to office. Whether intentional or not, Tolkien’s Middle Earth is full of implicit beauty-supremacy. Elves are good and beautiful; orcs are evil and ugly; Valar are good and beautiful; balrogs are evil and ugly; the Sindaren language is good and beautiful; the language of Mordor is evil and ugly. The list goes on. Our hope is that ‘The Rings of Power’ will establish a new and better Middle Earth, an ugly Middle Earth.
GT: It truly sounds wonderful, Alexi. I can’t wait to join you there.