Sunday, October 7, 2012

Well, I guess the remake of Red Dawn has finally been screened and the first reviews are out.  Truth be told, I really wasn't expecting much.  Most of the recent Hollywood remakes have been mediocre.  In fact, they've been so innocuous I don't think they'll have any effect on memories of their older, better antecedents (Nightmare on Elm Street, Total Recall, Fright Night among others).  What I saw of the script during shooting didn't exactly impress me.

I have very mixed feelings about being part of this.  I first heard about the Red Dawn remake when it was announced in 2008 or 2009, and had read that the Soviet threat of the 80s original were being replaced with China.  I thought it was an awful, offensive idea then, and still do.  Then I later read actor Roger Fan's great blog post about his experience being asked to be part of a script reading of the remake.

It was literally days after reading Roger's post that my agent called me up to say that they had feature film audition for me.  I was initially excited until she said it was for a film called Red Dawn.  My heart sunk.  What should I do?  After reading Roger's post I had actually raised a fist and gave a big "Right on!"  to the air.  I finally rationalized that I had already audition for all sorts of movies in the past that had not led to anything (Barber Shop 2, Roll Bounce and Formosa Betrayed to name a few).  And, I was relatively new to my current talent agent and felt that I should do my best to make a good impression.  So, I received my sides via e-mail, went into my agent's office, taped the audition, and thought that I'd be done with it.

To my surprise, the next day over lunch at a local bibimbop joint with my buddies Andy Vitale and David Babbitt, I received a call from my agent saying, "How soon can you be in Detroit?  They need you tomorrow."

It was all very surreal.  I felt a deep seated conflict between the professional opportunity and my own views of Asian representation in the media.  I remembered a conversation with actor Andre Ing I had had years prior where he said it was important that we (Asian Americans) did not take roles that demean or disgrace us.

There were other factors to consider though.  I generally support myself as a freelance Japanese translator, and work had started to slow to a trickle with the bad economy in 2009 (this was December).  My wife had been laid off from her job and nothing had come in as yet.  Plus, we were planning on getting married the following year and worried about the expenses.  So, I said yes, and next thing I know I was whisked off by car and plane to Detroit for what ended up being two weeks of being on location (though they really only used me for two day's shooting).

It's such a tricky situation, this profession.  When I was younger and simply a film fanboy, it was so easy to get irate about films that I thought were racist, and to get on my high horse about the actors who accept roles I thought were harmful to the image of our community.  Now, faced with practicalities of trying to be a working actor, I've discovered the decision-making process to be much more complicated.  God knows if it was the right decision long-term.  But I did it, and have to live with it.  I did run into person in the Chicago Asian American community last year who knew I was an actor and gave me a dismissive and dirty look when I mentioned that I had worked on the Red Dawn movie.  There was part of me that wanted to get worked up, angry at being judged in such a knee-jerk fashion.  But another part of me asked, was he right?  Who knows?

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