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10 Classic Remakes That Gave Minority Actors The Spotlight

These films opened the door for other cultures to relate to a favorite.

1. Carmen (1875) / Carmen Jones (1954)

 

When Carmen Jones was released in 1954, a film of its type — specifically one with an all-black cast — was very rare.

Twentieth Century Fox

“This was really a fantasy,” said director Otto Perminger. “The all-black world shown in these films doesn’t exist, at least not in the United States. We used the musical-fantasy quality to convey something of the needs and aspirations of colored people.”

2. The Wizard of Oz (1939) / The Wiz (1978)

MGM

Universal Pictures

 

The Wiz has been described as an urban rendition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum. After opening on Broadway in 1975, the musical won seven Tony Awards.

Universal Pictures

Though the cast and characters were updated to fit the ’70s Blaxploitation genre, The Wiz is actually closer to the plot of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book both movies are based on. For instance, there is a Good Witch of the South as well as a scene where the Wicked Witch of the West destroys the Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman.

3. Cinderella (1950) / Cinderella (1997)

Walt Disney

ABC

 

The beloved fairy tale popularized by Walt Disney received an ethnically diverse reimagining in 1997.

ABC

This version of a classic tale cast a delightfully colorful crew, including a black queen played by Whoopi Goldberg and a Filipino prince played by Paolo Montalban.

4. 12 Angry Men (1957) / 12 Angry Men (1997)

United Artists

Showtime

 

While the original featured an all-white jury, the jurors in the updated film were racially diverse and included Ossie Davis, Dorian Harewood, and Edward James Olmos.

Showtime

The added ethnicities in the 1997 version’s jury allowed a deeper story to be told. The racial tension created more facets in comparison to the original.

5. Chloe in the Afternoon (1972) / I Think I Love My Wife (2007)

Columbia Pictures

Fox Searchlight

 

I Think I Love My Wife is an Americanized production of the French film Chloe in the Afternoon (also known as Love in the Afternoon). The 2007 version stars Chris Rock and Kerry Washington.

Fox Searchlight

In reference to films featuring predominately female or ethnic casts, Hollywood writer Leslye Headland said, “If the success of films like Bridesmaids and Think Like a Man lead to more films with female or black leads, well, crap … that might mean more scripts that represent minorities as people. Realistic, sympathetic or compelling PEOPLE. Instead of banishing them to one-dimensional joke-machine supporting roles to the white male characters.”

6. The Karate Kid (1984) / The Karate Kid (2010)

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

 

The 2010 remake shifted from the original in several ways other than the color of the main character’s skin. For instance, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles, and Dre (Jaden Smith) moved from Detroit to Beijing, bringing even more cultural layers to the classic.

Columbia Pictures

One thing die-hard fans were up in arms about was the fact that Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) was actually teaching Dre (Jaden Smith) kung fu, not karate. Many felt the film should have been renamed The Kung Fu Kid.

7. Death at a Funeral (2007) / Death at a Funeral (2010)

MGM

Sony Pictures

 

Peter Dinklage returned for the revived version of Death at a Funeral, which also stars Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence.

Sony Pictures

One reviewer mentioned the fact that the race of characters in the 2010 version didn’t cause the storyline to vary from the British version. “The material itself isn’t even urbanized in the manner of, say, a Tyler Perry film. It’s a flick with a mostly black cast, but it’s essentially colorblind, which is incredibly refreshing … it’s nice to see a film where the race of the cast doesn’t matter.”

8. Steel Magnolias (1989) / Steel Magnolias (2012)

TriStar Pictures

Lifetime

 

Lifetime Network brought us a new version of the beloved favorite, this time starring an all-black cast.

Lifetime

When interviewed about the movie, Dana Owens (aka Queen Latifah) said that she “knew that story was timeless and colorless, which is something a lot of people need to understand about life. Certain things in life are universal.”

9. About Last Night (1986) / About Last Night (2014)

TriStar Pictures

Screen Gems

 

The ’80s rom-com that starred Rob Lowe is brought up-to-date with Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy.

Screen Gems

“There was no discussion of changing the characters’ lifestyles or any of the storyline as a result of casting black actors. I had written a script. The studio had decided to go with the strongest cast for that particular script. That cast happened to have black actors.” — Screenwriter Leslye Headland.

10. Annie (1982) / Annie (2014)

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

 

In the newest adaptation of Annie, the main character’s hair is still curly but not red. Following release of the trailer, commenters took to Twitter with adversity to the casting of Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx.

Columbia Pictures

Many spoke out — on both sides of the fence — regarding the casting of a black Annie. One shared opinion reverberated: A black Annie, or characters of the like, means that little girls will see that someone who looks like them can be the star. Not the sidekick. Not the servant. Not irrelevant. The star.

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