Thandie Newton Says Amy Pascal Wanted Her to Be 'More Convincing as a Black Character'

Thandie Newton Says Amy Pascal Wanted Her to Be 'More Convincing as a Black Character'
Image:Rodin Eckenroth (Getty Images)

Thandie Newton has been acting professionally for over 30 years and, in that span, she tells Vulture, she’s kept a black book of “grossness” which she claims she plans to publish on her deathbed.

“I’m not doing it when I’m alive. I don’t want to deal with all the fallout and everyone getting their side of the story. There is no side of the story when you’re sexually abused. You give that up,” she says in a new interview with Vulture in which she details the emotional and sexual abuse she experienced while working in Hollywood. Newton specifically discusses being sexually abused as a teenager by John Duigan, the director of the first film she appeared in, 1991’s Flirting. When asked about journalists’ describing her previous allegations as an “affair,” she says:

Yes. For years. I would talk about it a lot in the press, as you know. I think it’s because I was traumatized. If someone brought it up — and of course they’re going to bring it up in a fucking interview, man — if they spoke about it in a way that’s not sympathetic or they called it an affair, it was insult to injury. It’s like re-abuse. I think the reason I talked about it a lot, too, is I’m trying to find someone who understands. I’m looking for help. It’s so fucking obvious to me. What is the point if we don’t expose what needs to be exposed?

Newton also describes being called to audition for Charlie’s Angels and dealing with the studio head at the time, producer Amy Pascal, who wanted her to fulfill a stereotype, according to Newton (emphasis mine):

I had a meeting with her, and she said, “Look, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but the character as written and you playing the role, I just feel like we’ve got to make sure that it’s believable.” I was like, “What do you mean? What changes would you have to make?” She’s like, “Well, you know, the character, as written, she’s been to university and is educated.” I’m like, “I’ve been to university. I went to Cambridge.” She went, “Yeah, but you’re different.” She’s like, “Maybe there could be a scene where you’re in a bar and she gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty.” She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character. Everything she said, I was like, “Nah, I wouldn’t do that.” She’s like, “Yeah, but you’re different. You’re different.” That was Amy Pascal. That’s not really a surprise, is it? Let’s face it: I didn’t do the movie as a result.

Vulture added Pascal’s statement in response:

In a statement, Pascal said she was “horrified to hear” Newton’s description of their meeting. “While I take her words seriously, I have no recollection of the events she describes, nor do any of her representatives who were present at that casting session,” she said, adding, “I’ve long considered Thandie a friend; I’m thankful that I’ve had the chance to make movies with her; and I hope to work with her again in the future.”

Prior to the meeting with Pascal, Newton says she was empowered to turn down the role in Charlie’s Angels after a conversation with performer and playwright Eve Ensler. “I found myself telling her my story about being sexually abused. She didn’t look at me with pity. For her, it was like, “And you’re here,” says Newton. “It was the moment I turned from being a victim to a survivor. She just pointed out I was moving through it.”

Read the full Thandie Newton interview here.

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