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Cameron Crowe responds to backlash over Emma Stone’s casting in Aloha

on June 03, 2015, 12:20pm

There’s just no respite for Cameron Crowe’s Aloha. What started with those leaked venomous emails by former Sony executive Amy Pascal continued with outspoken cultural criticism by the likes of MANAA co-founder Guy Aoki and Native Hawaiians and ended last weekend with harsh reviews and dismal box office returns. Amidst all that madness, however, has been even more controversy surrounding Emma Stone’s Allison Ng character: a 1/4 Hawaiian native who expresses a deep admiration for the local terrain and proudly declares her heritage throughout the film.

Weeks ago, Sony defended the film with a statement, arguing: “While some have been quick to judge a movie they haven’t seen and a script they haven’t read, the film Aloha respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people. Filmmaker Cameron Crowe spent years researching this project and many months on location in Hawaii, cultivating relationships with leading local voices. He earned the trust of many Hawaiian community leaders, including Dennis ‘Bumpy’ Kanahele, who plays a key role in the film.”

Now that the film’s in theaters, Crowe has offered his own commentary on the cultural criticism (namely Stone’s casting), writing:

“From the very beginning of its appearance in the Sony Hack, “Aloha” has felt like a misunderstood movie. One that people felt they knew a lot about, but in fact they knew very little. It was a small movie, made by passionate actors who wanted to join me in making a film about Hawaii, and the lives of these characters who live and work in and around the island of Oahu.

Thank you so much for all the impassioned comments regarding the casting of the wonderful Emma Stone in the part of Allison Ng. I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice. As far back as 2007, Captain Allison Ng was written to be a super-proud ¼ Hawaiian who was frustrated that, by all outward appearances, she looked nothing like one.  A half-Chinese father was meant to show the surprising mix of cultures often prevalent in Hawaii.  Extremely proud of her unlikely heritage, she feels personally compelled to over-explain every chance she gets. The character was based on a real-life, red-headed local who did just that.

Whether that story point felt hurtful or humorous has been, of course, the topic of much discussion. However I am so proud that in the same movie, we employed many Asian-American, Native-Hawaiian and Pacific-Islanders, both before and behind the camera… including Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, and his village, and many other locals who worked closely in our crew and with our script to help ensure authenticity.

We were extremely proud to present the island, the locals and the film community with many jobs for over four months. Emma Stone was chief among those who did tireless research, and if any part of her fine characterization has caused consternation and controversy, I am the one to blame.

I am grateful for the dialogue. And from the many voices, loud and small, I have learned something very inspiring. So many of us are hungry for stories with more racial diversity, more truth in representation, and I am anxious to help tell those stories in the future.”

Needless to say, Crowe has seen sunnier days. Like these.

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