Don't Forget Who Paved the Way, Mr. McCallum
We had planned to post a different column this time around (look for it next
time), but after reading some comments made by Star Wars producer Rick
McCallum at the recent Star Wars Con in Denver, we felt we had to speak up. Here
is the piece, as reported by Cinescape
Online (May 2, 1999):
Don't Bet On Jedi Heston…
After offering his services to play Anakin for Episode
Two to Star Wars producer Rick McCallum (which drew a great
response from the crowd), Cinescape ace reporter Chris Kivlehan opined that
the producer may want to hook up with his favorite actor, Charlton Heston, to
actually fill the role of a Jedi Master. It didn't take long, however, for
Rick McCallum to push a dagger through that thought.
"You don't even want to know what I think about
that," the producer warned before concluding his thoughts with a succinct
"F*** him." Needless to say, Chris left the podium believing he had
a better chance of being cast as Anakin than seeing Chuck in Jedi robes.
We're assuming Mr. McCallom's distaste for Charlton Heston stems from the
fact that he is president of the NRA. Several Hollywood celebrities, including
Rosie O'Donnell and Mandy Patinkin, have publicly criticized Heston for his
views on gun control, particularly in the wake of the tragedy in Colorado. What
these celebrities have done (to our knowledge, at least) and Rick McCallum has
not, is show some respect. Not only does our Constitution guarantee the right to
bear arms, but it also guarantees every citizen the right to his or her own
opinion. It's one of the greatest freedoms we have.
McCallum has taken swipes at Internet Star Wars fans before, and even
then we wondered if he realizes who butters his bread. Now, we have great
respect for the fact, as producer of the three Star Wars Prequels (and
even Indiana Jones 4), that McCallum has one of the best jobs in the
world. However, his comments sound like something you generally find on message
boards, and not from the producer of the most anticipated film of the century.
It's certainly McCallom's right to disagree with Heston, but you would think he
could find a better way to express his thoughts.
Not only that, but whether he is aware of it or not, McCallum is practicing
discrimination. Would he not hire an actor due to his or her gender, religion,
or ethnic background? Certainly not. Refusing to consider an actor for his
political beliefs is discrimination, plain and simple. Heston marched with Dr.
Martin Luther King and fought to end discrimination. McCallum is continuing the
practice. On the Official Star Wars website, casting director Robin
Gurland commented on how liberating it was to cast the "right actor for the
role," as opposed to going for a name actor. I wonder if she would have
felt the same way had she tried to cast Charlton Heston.
We also believe that McCallum should realize who helped pave the road upon
which he now stands. Before films such as Planet of the Apes (1968), Soylent
Green (1973), and The Omega Man (1971), science-fiction films were
low-budget, B-grade fare meant for kids. One of the reasons Planet of the
Apes was such a risky gamble for 20th Century-Fox was that there really
hadn't been a thoughtful, serious science-fiction film made before. The fact
that a high-profile actor such as Heston was attached to the project certainly
helped convince Fox to take the risk. The success of Planet of the Apes
certainly helped clear the way for another science fiction film, called Star
Wars, a mere eight years later.
Not only that, but Charlton Heston is a great American icon. He’s played
Moses, Michaelangelo, Marc Antony, Buffalo Bill, Andrew Jackson, John the
Baptist, Sherlock Holmes, and a host of other major characters. He’s worked
with Cecil B. DeMille, Orson Welles, James Cameron (who is King of the World,
after all), George Stevens, and William Wyler, not to mention all the actors he’s
worked with, too. The man is a walking history of film, and he’s still going
at it. Let’s face it, Charlton Heston helped build the industry in which
McCallum now makes a wonderful living. And for that reason alone, he should be
given the utmost respect. He deserves nothing less.