Newsies: August 4, 2021 Edition

Welcome to Newsies, a twice-a-week column dedicated to entertainment & pop culture news, retrospectives, and discoveries. In this edition Bob Odenkirk recovers, Matt Damon is gonna “Matt Damon”, while Hollywood Nepotism ™ glides above all.

Bob Odenkirk Feels The Love

Beloved actor and comedian, Bob Odenkirk is on the mend after collapsing on the set of Better Call Saul. Over the weekend he reflected on the “outpouring of love” he felt during the course of his hospital stay. A welcome bit of news after a rough couple of days. Get better, Bob.

RIP Voice Actor Thea White

The voice of Muriel has been silenced. Voice actor Thea White, known for her work as the kind farmer’s wife, Muriel on Courage The Cowardly Dog, “died peacefully” after complications from liver cancer surgery. She was 81.

While working as a librarian in the latter part of her career, White, having “studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and at the American Theatre Wing in New York” decided to audition for a cartoon. The producer sought out an actor with a Scottish accent. “I used to be an actress and my husband is a Scot, and I can do the accent, so why don’t I audition?” she told the caller. Over 20 years later, she is well-regarded for Courage The Cowardly Dog.

Matt Damon Trades Stillwater For Hot Water

Diversity advocate and actor Matt Damon disclosed what he thought was a charming anecdote about removing the homophobic f-word from his vocabulary. His daughter, upon hearing him use the slur at the dinner table “wrote a very long, beautiful treatise on how that word is dangerous”. Reminiscing, Damon recalled how the slur was “commonly used when I was a kid, with a different application.”

After the interview went viral, Damon backpedaled his comments in a statement to Variety:

“During a recent interview, I recalled a discussion I had with my daughter where I attempted to contextualize for her the progress that has been made – though by no means completed – since I was growing up in Boston and, as a child, heard the word ‘f*g’ used on the street before I knew what it even referred to,” Damon said in the statement. “I explained that that word was used constantly and casually and was even a line of dialogue in a movie of mine as recently as 2003;  she in turn expressed incredulity that there could ever have been a time where that word was used unthinkingly. To my admiration and pride, she was extremely articulate about the extent to which that word would have been painful to someone in the LGBTQ+ community regardless of how culturally normalized it was. I not only agreed with her but thrilled at her passion, values and desire for social justice.

I have never called anyone ‘f****t’ in my personal life and this conversation with my daughter was not a personal awakening. I do not use slurs of any kind,” Damon continued. “I have learned that eradicating prejudice requires active movement toward justice rather than finding passive comfort in imagining myself ‘one of the good guys’. And given that open hostility against the LGBTQ+ community is still not uncommon, I understand why my statement led many to assume the worst. To be as clear as I can be, I stand with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Should Damon receive the benefit of a doubt during a publicity tour for Stillwater, in which he portrays a Trump supporting roughneck, who is “one of the guys don’t apologize for who they are”? I dunno, but I’d pay to see filmmaker Timo Tjahjanto’s movie idea:

The Behind The Candelabra star definitely didn’t endear any new love for Stillwater as acquitted murder defendant, journalist, and author Amanda Knox took to Twitter (and later Medium) to condemn the film for profiting off her life story without consent. Knox closes the crux of her Medium post by inviting filmmaker Tom McCarthy and Damon on her podcast to discuss the negotiation of identity, creative authorship, and storytelling ethics on her podcast, Labyrinths. I’d definitely listen to that convo.

Hollywood Nepotism Living Its Best Life With ‘The Rightaway’

Speaking of issues of identity and Twitter, Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List, spoke truth to power when calling out nepotism within the Hollywood entertainment industry. He cited the short film, The Rightaway as a particularly egregious example. The short film, which stars Hopper Penn (Sean Penn’s son) and is directed by Destry Spielberg (Steven’s daughter) from a script by Owen King (Stephen King’s son).

Filmmaker and actor Ben Stiller (son of Jerry and Anne) chimed in with his two cents.

What Stiller’s flippant tweet fails to address is the privilege of access and opportunity that other less privileged, well-connected and underrepresented filmmakers aren’t afforded.

Stiller continued to minimize how one’s platform has and is amplified by privilege, wealth, and power. He justified that while challenges are different by de facto insider status, “Show biz as we all know is pretty rough, and ultimately is a meritocracy.”

Leonard pushed back and reframed the wishful thinking of meritocracy in the entertainment industry.

Ultimately, in an act of good faith, Leonard extended a hand to Stiller, who read the room and begrudgingly conceded to the tweet thread’s main point: Hollywood’s uneven playing field needs to change.

Writer’s Notes:

This is the first edition of Newsies, which was developed to cluster together news and interest pieces that catch my eye. The result is a longer read, but it allows me to sustain this project in the long-tail! Thanx to everyone that reads and engages with this cornucopia of tidbits!

Future editions of Newsies will be published regularly on Tuesdays and Fridays (with breaks as needed). What do you call a chair in Spanish? See-ya Friday!