Hollywood is the Woke Capital of the country. On paper.
Celebrities have never been more outspoken on any number of fronts. Stars raise their voices in every way possible: on social media, during awards shows and in press interviews.
The industry rails against income inequality, supports women’s rights and fights hard to bring diversity to the masses. In reality. pay imbalances rule the film and TV industries. Women get the professional shaft in more ways than one. And that #OscarsSoWhite campaign torched Tinsel Town’s diversity status.
And then there’s China.
Hollywood hearts China, warts and all. What warts, you say?
- Curbing religious freedom
- Clamping down on free speech
- Imprisoning dissidents
- Micro-managing family planning
And yet you rarely, if ever, hear celebrities critique the Chinese government or specific policies. The industry craves the money Chinese audiences can bring to a project. The nation is the second leading movie market … and rising.
So studios will tweak its films to appease Chinese censors, cast Chinese actors in meaningless roles (see “Kong: Skull Island”) hoping to charm Chinese officials who determine which films can be played in the country.
How far will movies go in pandering to China? The Marvel Cinematic Universe recently had some of its characters use Vivo phones, a brand not sold in the U.S. but commonplace in China, in its stories.
Stephen Colbert mocked Hollywood’s infatuation with the Chinese market.
One star doesn’t censor himself when it comes to China. He’s been at it for years.
And now Gere is admitting that stance has taken a toll on his career.
“There are definitely movies that I can’t be in because the Chinese will say, ‘Not with him,’ ” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese.”
Translation: You won’t see the 67-year-old star in mainstream movies any more.
Gere is now appearing in “Norman,” the story of a Jewish “fixer” who gets involved with an Israeli politician. He’ll soon star in “The Dinner,” a modest story about two couples arguing over their adult children’s troubles.
Pure indie filmmaking. Yet even some indie films are off limits to him now.
“There was something I was going to do with a Chinese director, and two weeks before we were going to shoot, he called saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t do it,'” confides Gere. “We had a secret phone call on a protected line. If I had worked with this director, he, his family would never have been allowed to leave the country ever again, and he would never work.”
Will anyone speak out in favor of Gere? Susan Sarandon did just that in the THR story. Will others?
Hollywood denizens routinely talk about bravery within the business. Speaking truth to power. And so forth.
Gere, even if you disagree with his positions, is brave enough to keep speaking his mind while knowing the consequences of his actions.