To Be Black In 'Thor', Or Not To Be Black In 'Thor' That Is The Burning Hollywood Question?
10:55 AM 3/25/2011 by David L. Watts
"Heimdall is the brother of the warrior Sif. He is the all-seeing and all-hearing guardian sentry of Asgard, he stands on the rainbow bridge, Bifrost and stands watch for any attacks to Asgard. He partly won the role through using his eyesight to see an army of giants several days' march from Asgard, allowing them to be defeated before they reached Asgard, and making their king a prisoner. For ages, he stood as the guardian of Asgard, defending the city's gates from any intruders, and was one of the most trusted servants of Odin”…Wikipedia
And Elizabeth Taylor was cast as Cleopatra because no Hollywood studio in 1963 would trust or greenlight spending multi-millions on a major international film on Dorothy Dandridge being the lead opposite Richard Burton. And Ben Kingsly actually does have Indian heritage. His father was Gujarati and his birth name is Krishna Bhanji. A better example of recent color blind casting is the BBC show Merlin which has Angel Coulby, who is bi-racial, playing Arthur’s love interest Guinevere (Gwen). Gwen is a role traditionally played in Hollywood by white actresses from Excalibur to Starz’s new show Camelot. And Merlin has Black knights, villains and Black members of Gwen’s family.
“If you know anything about the Nords, they don’t look like me but there you go. I think that’s a sign of the times for the future. I think we will see multi-level casting. I think we will see that and I think that’s good.”…”I looked at the comic books actually because Heimdall, he’s a very central character and I wanted to reflect him as he in the comic books.”[said by Idris Elba]…Mike Eisenberg…ScreenRant…April 12, 2010.
Now to be fair truly fair to Branagh and Marvel’s goal of implementing color blind casting in Thor--there is another Asgardian character called “Hogun the Grim” of the Warriors Three who is played by Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano. But there has not been much mention of Asano’s role being as obvious a fanboy head scratcher as Idris being cast as Heimdall. That might because the Thor comic book character Hogun is dark haired and kinda looks Mongolian anyway. Even though Tadanobu Asano is an excellent Japanese actor; if Asano had been cast to play the blond haired warrior Fandral, played by Stuart Townsend, or the blond bearded big gut Warriors Three Vollstagg, played by Rome’s Ray Stevenson, there would be the same huge casting uproar as a Black Heimdall.
But the bottom line is much of this mainly Internet driven controversy about Idris playing a mythical Nordic God could have been avoided if Idris had initially said the right things about landing the role of Heimdall in Thor. All Idris had to do with his manager, publicist and agent’s blessing is put out a short statement that said he had always been a big fan of Thor and avid reader of Marvel comics. Idris could say humbly he was truly excited and honored to even get a chance to read for a role in Thor. Idris could then say he was well suited to play the noble and heroic sentry of Asgard because had just played in big action films like The Losers and Takers. He could also say that he likes strong and stoic characters like Heimdall because he had a similar well written, gritty and dark lead role in the BBC detective series Luther. Idris could then finish up his positive Heimdall color blind casting statement by saying he was amazed at all the intense fighting scenes and special effects in Thor. And also throw out that he hopes he gets a chance to be in the next Avenger films as well.
That’s all Idris had to say after getting the role of Heimdall and that short statement would have quashed any controversy because even a fanboy or Marvel junkie skeptical of Idris being cast as Heimdall would want to know more about his interest of Thor and Marvel comics. And I don’t care if it’s not true that Idris is a big fan of Thor. He can easily fake it if need be. Thor is a multi-million summer tentpole superhero film that does not need any distractions or doubters. A film like Thor wants as much positive press as possible. Not negative press of some fanboys or white racist groups blogging 24/7 about why Thor might be “whack” because they put a Black actor as a Nordic God. Diehard comic book fans are always willing to allow some levels of casting liberties with their comic book film adaptations, but not the comic book’s main characters. So Idris should have seen this color blind casting drama coming miles away just like Heimdall would have seen Frost Giants miles away about to invade Asgard.
Hopefully, Idris Elba playing in Thor will allow Marvel to go back and greenlight him or another African-American or African actor playing the lead in a Black Panther film. To me just getting Black Panther into the Avengers would be more exciting than a Black Heimdall in Thor. So my best advice for Idris Elba is to continue reading every Heimdall in Thor comics, so you can at least be an expert and true fan of your character during the Thor promotional tour. And then Idris can stop angrily and surprisingly wondering about why fanboys, film critics or movie bloggers are genuinely puzzled why Heimdall in Thor looks more like Shaft than a typical Scandinavian looking white mythical Nordic God. Idris should smile and laugh off his Heimdall haters like Heimdall would in Thor.
David L. “Money Train” Watts - thedarkroome.com