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There are not many celebrities that make me fangirl, but Thandie Newton is definitely one of them. What most people don’t know is that she has been in the acting biz since Halle Berry and is considered one of her contemporaries. I didn’t take notice of Thandie until Crash in 2005. Now, I get excited when her name is mentioned in conjunction with a project.
In an interview with Vulture, Thandie speaks about what it is like in the industry for women, specifically a black woman. And in the age of Me Too, people are listening. She is making sure to clear up those pesky rumors that many journalists called an “affair” with Flirting director John Duigan in which she says she was being, “groomed and sexually abused,” while a teenager. She states that the industry, “objectifies,” and “exploits,” women, and that complaints from women of color are rarely taken seriously. That’s ok, she’s found a way to remedy that by not only speaking up, but taking names in her “little black book,” that will be released when she dies.
You can tell by reading the interview that Thandie isn’t here to suffer fools and has no f*cks left to give. There was some name dropping of bad players in Hollywood, and even though the interview verged toward heavier topics in a raw, honest, and thoughtful way, it was sometimes funny albeit extremely awkward. Like that time she worked with Tom Cruise on Mission Impossible 2:
What was your experience like on Mission: Impossible 2? And why didn’t you do another one?
Oh, I was never asked. I was so scared of Tom. He was a very dominant individual. He tries super hard to be a nice person. But the pressure. He takes on a lot. And I think he has this sense that only he can do everything as best as it can be done. There was one time, we were doing this night scene, there were so many extras with pyrotechnics and you name it, and it was a scene with him and me on the balcony. And I don’t think it was a very well-written scene. I get angry with him. We’re frustrated with each other. And we’re looking out over Spain. It wasn’t going well. And John Woo, bless him, wasn’t there. He was downstairs looking at everything on a monitor. And John had made a decision at the beginning of the movie, unbeknownst certainly to me, that he didn’t speak English. Which I think was very helpful to him, but it was extremely unhelpful to the rest of us. So this scene was happening, and Tom was not happy with what I was doing because I had the shittiest lines.
And he gets so frustrated with having to try and explain that he goes, “Let me just — let’s just go do it. Let’s just rehearse on-camera.” So we rehearsed and they recorded it, and then he goes, “I’ll be you. You be me.” So we filmed the entire scene with me being him — because, believe me, I knew the lines by then — and him playing me. And it was the most unhelpful … I can’t think of anything less revealing. It just pushed me further into a place of terror and insecurity. It was a real shame. And bless him. And I really do mean bless him, because he was trying his damnedest.
I remember at the beginning of the night, seeing this slight red mark on his nose, and by the end of the night, I kid you not — this is how his metabolism is so fierce — he had a big whitehead where that red dot was. It would take anyone else 48 hours to manifest a zit. I saw it growing, and it was like the zit was me, just getting bigger and bigger. I remember calling Jonathan Demme. I described the night to him: “A nightmare.” As I was describing it, it was clear that I thought I was the big fucking problem. And Jonathan was like, “Thandie, shame on you for not backing yourself.” He was really sweet. And then Tom called and I thought, Oh, this is it. The apology. No, he was just like, “We’re going to reshoot this next week.” I’m like, “Way brilliant.” And the next time we shot it, I went in there and I just basically manifested all the — because I realized what he wanted. He just wanted this alpha bitch. And I did as best as I could. It’s not the best way to get the best work out of someone.
He wasn’t horrible. It was just — he was really stressed. I had the most extraordinary time, and you know who got me that role? Nicole Kidman. I’ve never actually outright asked her, but when your husband is like, “Who would you mind me pretending to shag for the next six months?” You know what I mean? It’s kind of nice if you can pick together. Nicole was a huge advocate for me.
I didn’t want to recount her entire interview here because I believe it is worth a read. It is still shocking to me how much these actresses we admire go through behind the scenes, and how misogynistic, colorist and racist Hollywood can be. It takes strength of character and courage to be able to stand up to bullies. The Me Too movement has created strength in numbers that is allowing these women to come forward with their stories so that they can let it be known that abuse of any kind, will no longer be tolerated. As for Thandie, she fired shots at the executives when she stated, “So careful what you do, everybody, because you might find yourself fucking over a little brown girl at the beginning of a career, when no one knows who she is and no one gives a f*ck. She might turn out to be Thandie Newton winning Emmys.”
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