Rob Schneider Weighs in on the Ethnic Casting Debate

by | December 6, 2005 | Comments

In classic Rob Schneider fashion, Rob Schneider has penned an open letter to the New York Times defending his one-eyed, pidgin-spouting Tongan character in "50 First Dates."

Responding to an op-ed piece lamenting the recent passing of Japanese-American actor Pat Morita and the dearth of respectable roles for Asians in Hollywood, Schneider wrote his letter to correct the assumption that he, with his cockeyed performance in "Dates," was just another Caucasian actor playing to stereotypes in the vein of Mickey Rooney in "Breakfast at Tiffany’s." In fact, the erstwhile "Deuce Bigalow" is half-Filipino, but that’s beside his point. Citing black and brown-faced performances like Orson Welles‘ titular Moor in "Othello," Schneider argues that actors should be cast "irrespective of ethnicity, race or in my case ‘looks.’"

He also notes that the real-life Ula, on whom his Tongan "Dates" caricature was based, approved of his being cast in the role.

You might recall Schneider’s previous brush with the world of journalism earlier this year, when he dashed off an angry, ill-researched letter to the Los Angeles Times in response to a front-page article dismissing his sequel "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" as an example of studio-produced junk. His full-page attack ad ran in the trades and lambasted Times writer Patrick Goldstein as a mean-hearted, third-rate reporter; it was later revealed that Schneider’s own online research had overlooked at least one of Goldstein’s industry-granted writing awards.

With the recent stir over casting in the upcoming "Memoirs of a Geisha," Schneider’s take on authenticity in acting provides an interesting, if controversial, counterpoint to the argument against Chinese actresses playing Japanese roles. Is this Schneider’s appeal to become Pat Morita’s Asian comic-relief successor? Will "Deuce Bigalow 3: Memoirs of a Gigolo" elicit angry protests across the globe, splitting the collective conscience of movie-going audiences everywhere?

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