Thandie Newton is explaining why she passed on a major film role. In a new profile for Vulture, the 47-year-old biracial British actress opens up about the sexism and racism she's faced in Hollywood, including an audition she had for the 2000 hit action film Charlie's Angels.
"One of the biggest movies I didn’t end up doing was because the director said to me, 'I can’t wait for this. The first shot is going to be … You’re going to think it’s like yellow lines down a road, and you pull back and you realize it’s the stitching, because the denim is so tight on your a** it’s going to look like tarmac,'" Newton recalls, referencing Angels director McG. "I was like, 'Oh, I don’t think we’re going to go down this road together.'"
She also names former Sony studio head Amy Pascal, claiming she made racially insensitive comments about Newton's part.
"Then the head of the studio -- I had a meeting with her, and she said, 'Look, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but the character as written and you playing the role, I just feel like we’ve got to make sure that it’s believable,'" Newton says. "I was like, 'What do you mean? What changes would you have to make?' She’s like, 'Well, you know, the character, as written, she’s been to university and is educated.' I’m like, 'I’ve been to university. I went to Cambridge.' She went, 'Yeah, but you’re different.' She’s like, 'Maybe there could be a scene where you’re in a bar and she gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty.'"
The actress adds, "She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character. Everything she said, I was like, 'Nah, I wouldn’t do that.' She’s like, 'Yeah, but you’re different. You’re different.' That was Amy Pascal. That's not really a surprise, is it? Let's face it: I didn't do the movie as a result."
Though Newton doesn't reveal which character she'd been offered in the film, it seems likely it was the role of Alex, which went to Lucy Liu. Alex was portrayed as a highly educated agent whose parents were Harvard professors.
Pascal responded to the interview with a statement to Vulture, saying she was "horrified to hear" Newton's description of their meeting.
"While I take her words seriously, I have no recollection of the events she describes, nor do any of her representatives who were present at that casting session," reads Pascal's statement. "I've long considered Thandie a friend; I'm thankful that I've had the chance to make movies with her; and I hope to work with her again in the future."
Pascal was fired from Sony in 2015 following the company's email hacking scandal, where it was revealed that she made racially insensitive comments about former President Barack Obama.
Newton goes on to call Charlie's Angels' leading ladies, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu, "brilliant," but notes, "I didn’t want to be put in a position where I was objectified. That just didn’t feel good."
Newton also reveals that she has a "little black book" about the "grossness" she's experienced in Hollywood, which she plans to publish "on my deathbed."
As for its contents, Newton says, "Got to leave something behind, love. I’m not doing it when I’m alive. I don’t want to deal with all the fallout and everyone getting their side of the story."