Intro for September 11, 2017

Lainey Posted by Lainey at September 11, 2017 11:35:58 September 11, 2017 11:35:58

Dear Gossips,

Downsizing opened to strong reviews at the Venice Film Festival and screened here at TIFF over the weekend. Sarah’s review will be posted later today. Downsizing is directed by Alexander Payne, with Matt Damon as the big name star. But it’s Hong Chau’s performance that’s getting much of the acting attention. Hong is an American actress raised in New Orleans whose parents are from Vietnam. Downsizing is being called her “breakout” role and she tells The Hollywood Reporter that when she first heard that there might be a part for her in the film, she assumed it would pretty insignificant:

"I thought, 'Oh, maybe there's a lab tech with a line or two,' because I had been trained to think so small in regards to how I look and what I can play — or what people will allow me to play.”

Turns out, her character “gets to be funny. She gets to be a pain in the ass. She gets to be heroic.”

She reacted that way initially though because, of course, there are few opportunities for Asian actors in Hollywood. And when opportunities are available, they’re often stereotypes. Which is why Hong, during the Downsizing press conference at TIFF called the film a “love letter” to her parents who immigrated to America, worked hard to contribute to their American community but were still not represented by the mainstream.

While Hong was representing her parents at TIFF through her performance, another conversation about Asian representation was happening online this weekend in response to a column in Paste, written by Kenneth Lowe, about Industry Bias, Whitewashing, and the Invisible Asian in Hollywood. It’s a thorough analysis of the “way the industry is structured (that) resists a change in the people who make hiring decisions, considering the vast majority of executives, directors and producers are white”.

One quote in particular set Twitter off. In Nancy Yuen’s book, Reel Equality: Hollywood Actors and Racism, an unnamed casting director offered the following explanation for why Asians aren’t considered for more roles:

“I work with a lot of different people, and Asians are a challenge to cast because most casting directors feel as though they’re not very expressive,” one other casting director told Yuen. “They’re very shut down in their emotions … If it’s a look thing for business where they come in they’re at a computer or if they’re like a scientist or something like that, they’ll do that; but if it’s something were they really have to act and get some kind of performance out of, it’s a challenge.”

You can imagine how well that went over. Or, rather, you can SEE how well that went over – here:

Pretty f-cking expressive. But it’s that kind of pervasive bullsh-t that often drives creative decision making in Hollywood. It’s why Hong Chau is only now getting her moment. She’s making it count though. They’re saying she could be a contender for a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Here’s Hong this weekend in Toronto. The Downsizing TIFF premiere is tonight.

Yours in gossip,


Geoff Robins/ Walter McBride/ Getty Images

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