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Linda Hunt: When the Oscars rewarded an American actress for portraying a Chinese-Australian man | USA

Linda Hunt with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1983.
Linda Hunt with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1983.Bettmann (Bettmann Archive)

Javier Bardem is at the center of the latest Hollywood controversy due to the inappropriateness – in the eyes of some at least – of the Spanish actor portraying a Cuban character, Desi Arnaz, in Being the Ricardos, the story of American comedian Lucille Ball and her husband and co-star on the sitcom I Love Lucy. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bardem played down the issue: “I’m an actor, and that’s what I do for a living: try to be people that I’m not,” said the Oscar winner. Bardem also alluded to the problem being based on “accents” – that there tends not to be any furore over English-speakers giving a foreign tongue a go. “Where is that conversation with English-speaking people doing things like The Last Duel, where they were supposed to be French people in the Middle Ages?” he wondered.

In the interview, Bardem joked about the prevailing debate on representation and casting: “We should all start not allowing anybody to play Hamlet unless they were born in Denmark.” The issue tends to surface most around the awards season – the issue of diversity has more or less finished off the Golden Globes – and the decision by director Guy Nattiv to cast English actress Helen Mirren as former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir has recently been making headlines. Jewish actress Maureen Lipman criticized Mirren’s involvement in the movie Golda a few weeks ago, stating that the “the Jewishness of the character is so integral.”

“My opinion, and that’s what it is, a mere opinion, is that if the character’s race, creed or gender drives or defines the portrayal then the correct – for want of an umbrella [term] – ethnicity should be a priority,” The Pianist actor told Variety.

The days when a director had the option to skirt the industry’s norms and cast an actor not only against race or creed, but gender, seem long distant but that is exactly what Peter Weir did in 1982 when the man behind the camera on Dead Poets Society (1989) and The Truman Show (1998) was casting The Year of Living Dangerously, a romantic tale set against the backdrop of the overthrow of President Sukarno in Indonesia.

Helen Mirren at the Telluride Film Festival
Helen Mirren at the Telluride Film FestivalVivien Killilea (Getty Images)

Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver were on board, but Weir had difficulty finding an actor capable of playing the role of photographer Billy Kwan, a charismatic character who would serve as the moral compass of the movie. Weir had settled on Australian dancer David Atkins, but a clash of personalities with Gibson led him to leave the production after filming had begun. That was when a member of the casting department suggested Linda Hunt.

“The sets were being built in Manila and time was of the essence,” Weir said in an interview with The New York Times in 2019. “The casting agent said he had a possible Billy Kwan called L. Hunt. Later it was revealed she was a woman. We were desperate, we gave her a shot and it was brilliant.” Hunt, who had enjoyed a solid career in theater to that point but was far from a household name, was more surprised than anyone by the decision. “I didn’t quite understand what I was there for; I talked to the casting director about it and he just said, ‘This would be a part that you would play as a man,’” the NCIS: Los Angeles star told The Daily Beast. “I said, ‘Holy shit,’ and laughed.”

Hunt attempted to change Weir’s mind but without success. “Can you rewrite it for a woman?” the director recalls the actor asking. “I said this would change the entire story and there was a silence,” he recalled. “‘Could you play a man?’ I asked her and there was a longer silence. ‘Only if you believe in me,’ she replied.”

When Hunt went for the first screen test they put her in a wig, a mustache and placed pieces of rubber over her eyes to give her a more oriental appearance. She looked in the mirror and said to herself: “Let’s take all this shit off and let me do it.”

I didn’t try to pass myself off as a man; the movie wasn’t about that

Actress Linda Hunt

“I didn’t try to pass myself off as a man; the movie wasn’t about that,” Hunt told the New Straits Times in 2016. But she had to make the audience believe that she was a man. To achieve this, she cut her hair short and dyed it, and shaved her eyebrows. The result was so convincing that waiters would call her “sir” even when she was wearing a dress.

Hunt, who despite playing a Chinese-Australian in The Year of Living Dangerously, is white and was born in New Jersey in 1945, was diagnosed with hypopituitary dwarfism as a teenager, which made her adolescent life difficult. “When I was growing up, particularly during puberty in my teen years, I was so miserable because I elicited so much teasing and meanness from my teenage cohorts,” she told The Daily Beast. She first felt the call of acting in a production of Peter Pan – a role traditionally played by women in the theater – but due to the reaction among the producers to her physical appearance, she decided to concentrate on directing. “Until I got to New York and saw the stupidity of that idea. If it’s hard to get into acting, what is it like for a woman to become a director?”

The Year of Living Dangerously was Hunt’s first major movie role following her debut in Robert Altman’s Popeye, which was roundly panned by critics. As such, in 1982, Hunt’s extraordinary talent was a secret beyond the theaters of Broadway. After the movie was released, it would never be a secret again. Spectators stayed in theaters for the credits to roll to find out who the actor playing Billy Kwan was and were surprised when it was revealed to be a woman. “Linda Hunt, a New York stage actress who enters the role so fully that it never occurs to us that she is not a man. This is what great acting is, a magical transformation of one person into another,” wrote movie critic Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun Times: words that echo Bardem’s in The Hollywood Reporter. Her portrayal of Billy Kwan even won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1983.

Hunt’s performance as Kwan is not one of cinema’s greatest whitewashing moments – see John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror or Mickey Rooney playing Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – but in 2018 there was a considerable backlash when an image of Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously was shown at the Oscars during a montage of past winners. Critics said her inclusion detracted from what was an important year for minority representation, explained Teen Vogue.

Despite the controversy, a few months after the gala Weir told The New York Times that he did not regret the decision to cast Hunt. “Casting is fundamental and it should not be influenced by any trends.” Tell that to the Golden Globes.

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How Emergence of AI-Generated Virtual Twins Is Revolutionizing The Fashion Modeling

Emergence of AI-Generated Virtual Twins

The Voice Of EU | In the ever-evolving landscape of fashion modeling, a groundbreaking innovation has emerged: the creation of virtual twins through the power of artificial intelligence (AI). This technological advancement has already made waves in the industry, exemplified by the case of Alexsandrah, a renowned model who has seamlessly integrated her AI counterpart into her professional endeavors. The implications of this development are far-reaching, reshaping not only the creative landscape but also the economic and ethical dimensions of the fashion world.

Alexsandrah, known professionally by her first name, stands as a pioneer in this new era of modeling. She proudly shares that her digital twin mirrors her appearance “even down to the baby hairs,” blurring the lines between reality and simulation. This symbiotic relationship between the human model and her AI counterpart signifies a transformative shift propelled by AI technology.

Advocates of AI-generated modeling argue that its increasing prevalence promotes diversity and inclusivity within the fashion industry. By showcasing a wider range of body types and underrepresented demographics, AI models empower consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions, ultimately reducing fashion waste stemming from product returns. Moreover, the cost-effectiveness of digital modeling presents economic opportunities for both companies and individuals seeking to leverage this innovative technology.

However, amidst the promise of progress, critics voice concerns regarding the potential ramifications of AI modeling. The displacement of human models, makeup artists, and photographers looms large, raising questions about job security and ethical implications. Furthermore, there is apprehension that unsuspecting consumers may be deceived into mistaking AI models for real individuals, undermining transparency and authenticity in the industry.

London-based model Alexsandrah has a twin, but not in the way you’d expect

London-based model Alexsandrah has a twin, but not in the way you’d expect

Sara Ziff, a former fashion model and founder of the Model Alliance, underscores the pressing need to address these concerns. She highlights the risk of distorting racial representation and marginalizing models of color through the uncritical adoption of AI technology. Indeed, data indicates that women, especially those from underrepresented groups, are disproportionately affected by the advent of AI in modeling, further exacerbating existing disparities in the industry.

The case of iconic denim brand Levi Strauss & Co. illustrates the nuanced stance that companies are taking towards AI-generated models. While initial experiments with AI models aimed to diversify representation, backlash prompted a reevaluation of their approach. Levi reaffirmed its commitment to live photo shoots and human models, signaling a cautious approach to AI integration in its operations.

Despite varying responses from industry players, the demand for AI-generated models continues to grow. Companies like Lalaland.ai, founded by Michael Musandu, are at the forefront of this technological revolution. Musandu emphasizes the complementary nature of AI models, envisioning them as supplements rather than replacements for traditional photo shoots. He underscores the potential of AI to enhance the shopping experience, reduce product returns, and create new job opportunities within the industry.

The journey towards ethical AI implementation in fashion modeling is fraught with challenges, as highlighted by the experiences of models like Yve Edmond. Concerns regarding consent, compensation, and labor rights underscore the need for robust regulatory frameworks. The Model Alliance advocates for legislative measures to safeguard the rights of fashion workers, including provisions for informed consent and fair compensation in the realm of AI modeling.

Amidst the complexities and controversies surrounding AI-generated modeling, individuals like Alexsandrah navigate this new frontier with a sense of optimism tempered by vigilance. By fostering transparency, ethical use, and equitable compensation, AI has the potential to expand opportunities for models of color and revolutionize the fashion industry. As stakeholders grapple with the ethical and economic implications of this technology, the journey towards a more inclusive and sustainable future for fashion modeling continues.


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Top 10 most profitable places in Britain for holiday rentals

The most profitable locations in Britain for holiday rentals has been revealed – and the majority are not located anywhere near a beach.

Staycation favourite Cornwall is top of the rankings, with an average price per night of £84 for a room and £117 for a whole house.

A total of 476,910 bookings were made via popular holiday rental companies in the area last summer, according to analysis of Office for National Statistics data by the money website Wealth of Geeks.

The figures suggest that holiday lets in Cornwall took bookings worth £40million between the beginning of July and the end of September last year.

However, most of the top 10 are located in inner London, the research showed.

The most profitable locations for buy-to-let have been revealed, with staycation favourite Cornwall at the top of the rankings

The list of top ten places also includes several areas in London, including Westminster in second place.

The average price of renting a holiday let in Westminster is £133 a night for a room and £435 for a house.

With 304,790 holiday let bookings, it produces a revenue for the area in the heart of London’s west end of £34,441,270 for the summer period last year.

The calculations were based on bookings on Airbnb, Booking.com and the Expedia Group, with data taken from the Office for National Statistics.

The rental prices, meanwhile, were taken from Airbnb across 388 British towns, and the total revenue was calculated by multiplying the number of nights with the nightly cost of a room on Airbnb.

The revenue did not take into account any costs of running a holiday let, such as repairs and maintenance, nor did it factor in property prices.

All of the remaining locations in the top ten were in London except for one on the south coast.

This was Brighton and Hove, where average rental prices per night were £100 for a room.

In total, the data suggested that the British holiday rental market made £739,211,390, during the summer of 2023.

Michael Dinich, of Wealth of Geeks, said: ‘Holiday rentals play a vital role in the UK’s tourism industry by supporting local economies, providing accommodation to enhance visitor experience, and promoting tourism in diverse regions across the country.

‘Tourism also helps to promote awareness of lesser-known areas, helping to distribute tourist spending more evenly across the country.

‘While some destinations may experience seasonal fluctuations in tourism often in the summer months, holiday rentals attract visit year-round, helping to sustain economies and businesses during off-peak seasons.’

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in this year's Budget that the tax relief available for furnished holiday lets would be scrapped

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in this year’s Budget that the tax relief available for furnished holiday lets would be scrapped

The findings show that those looking to invest in the holiday lets market need to do their sums carefully before taking the plunge and committing to a particular area.

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf, explained: ‘This data shows that it’s not just the prospect of beaches and more reliable weather which drives profitability.

‘It’s not just traditionally popular holiday destinations which produce the best returns so it’s vital that would-be landlords do their research carefully before investing.

‘The ability to make money depends on supply and demand, not just the attributes of an area.

‘At what level a landlord can rent their property for, after taking into account all expenses, is key and explains why areas such as Westminster and Camden are proving profitable, where they may lack the charm of a traditional UK holiday destination such as Cornwall.’

The British holiday rental market made £739,211,390, during the summer of 2023, according to the latest data

The British holiday rental market made £739,211,390, during the summer of 2023, according to the latest data

Tax crackdown

The data on the most profitable holiday lets follows a crackdown on the sector by the Chancellor.

Jeremy Hunt announced in this year’s Budget that the tax relief available for furnished holiday lets would be scrapped to help improve the availability of long-term rentals.

The move is due to come into force at the beginning of April next year and is widely seen as a way of bringing the tax regime of shorter-term lets more in line with longer term rentals.

Experts operating in the sector insisted that holiday rentals remained in demand ahead of the changes.

Graham Donoghue, of Sykes Holiday Cottages, said: ‘Staycations have been growing in popularity over the past decade and right now demand for our UK holiday cottages is higher than ever, with the average annual income of a holiday let owner up as a result.

‘Hotspot locations like Yorkshire, Cumbria, and Cornwall continue to see considerable demand and bookings across the UK for our holiday cottages have been up 11 per cent during the current Easter school holidays.

‘The demand we’re witnessing is particularly good news for our holiday let owners who have faced their own set of challenges recently. Despite changes, which we are carefully guiding our owners through, it’s clear that holiday letting remains a profitable and rewarding long-term business model.’

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‘Monkey Man’: Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema

Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema

Dev Patel has always had an intelligent glint in his eye. From his big screen debut in Slumdog Millionaire to his role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s series The Newsroom, the British actor usually brings a sense of peace, calm and intelligence to his performances. Perhaps that is why it is no surprise that, at 32, he has made his directorial debut with a film in favor of social outcasts, which he also produces, co-writes and stars in. The surprise is its genre: Monkey Man is a fierce action and martial arts film, revolving around hand-to-hand combat, dismemberment and knife fights.

Patel returns to India, the land of his ancestors, for his story of revenge that is strengthened by the creative arsenal applied to its sequences — and not only those of combat. While there was a serious lack of design in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, one of the worst choices for Oscar for Best Film in Oscar history, Monkey Man has at its heart a physical and moral entanglement, involving a sadistic police chief, a luxury brothel that serves as home to both fornication and power, and a ragged young man who seeks to atone for the death of his mother through the most savage forms of violence.

Monkey Man is also set in a slum overrun by gambling and fights, with Patel earning a few rupees as an underground bare fist fighter wearing a crude monkey mask. With its colors and the camera’s handling of Bombay’s chaos, the movie has echoes of Brazil’s City of God.

Image from the movie 'Monkey Man.'
Image from the movie ‘Monkey Man.’Universal Pictures

A comparison can also easily be made with the John Wick saga, which has revolutionized commercial action and martial arts cinema in the past 10 years. Patel even mentions John Wick in one on-screen exchange. Yet, despite the similarities, the staging and editing of their spectacular fight sequences set them apart. In the four installments of the John Wick movies starring Keanu Reeves, the choreography regarding the confrontations is developed through a paradoxically harmonious staging of continuity, with general shots extended in time. The dynamics of their contenders and their movements are visualized with hardly any editing, almost like a classic fifties musical but instead of dances, there is physical destruction.

The action in Monkey Man, on the other hand, is not one of continuity, but of rupture. The cuts are incessant and move at an unrestrained pace; the shots come in quick succession, with barely a second or two between them. Patel’s handling of cinematic language is brutal. For a novice director, he displays a dazzling energy, cadence and expressiveness. This is demonstrated by three of the only four fights in the ring, each one based on a dynamic sense of space and narrative. The first is defined by the close-up shot, with the camera directed at the waist of the opponents or even lower — giving the viewers a sense of overwhelming closeness. The second offers a very different vision of the fight, which is both more poetic and exquisite. And the third uses surprise as the main exponent, and is raw and concise.

With rough textures, contrasting colors and ochre photography, reflecting the social mud in which most of the characters are stuck, Monkey Man only slips off kilter in the second half, when the Hindu demigod, Hanuman, assumes the tragic halo that envelops the protagonist. Although it gives him authenticity with respect to his lineage, the visualization is tinged with a somewhat tiresome messianic muddle of lyrical ambition.

Monkey Man

Director: Dev Patel.

Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Sobhita Dhuliwala.

Genre: Action. United States, 2024.

Duration: 121 minutes

Release date: April 12.


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