Sony Execs Question Denzel Washington’s Appeal Because He’s Black

Denzel Washington

The Sony email leaks just keep getting worse. For the last two weeks, Sony has been dealing with backlash for inappropriate comments about President Obama, Kevin Hart and Angelina Jolie. Now, Denzel Washington has emerged as the latest subject of the hacked emails, with executives saying he should not be cast in international films because he is black.

According to Radar, an unnamed  producer sent concerns to Sony Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton shortly after the release of Washington’s film The Equalizer that they hoped were not “inappropriate or provocative.” 

“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel Washington is the best actor of his generation),” wrote the producer.

“Casting him is saying we’re okay with a double [baseball term] if the picture works,” the producer continued. “He’s reliable at the domestic [box office], safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe whenever possible the non-event pictures, extra ‘bets’, should have a large inherent upside and be made for the right price. Here there isn’t a large inherent upside.”

Washington’s The Equalizer grossed $191 million at theaters worldwide, with 47% of the ticket sales coming from sales outside of the United States. Despite the numbers, the producer was still concerned that takings could have been better.

“I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist – in general pictures with an African American lead don’t play well overseas,” the producer continued.”But Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximise returns and reduce risk, especially pictures with decent size budgets.”

Previous emails exposed racist jokes about President Obama, and a racist joke about TV being the new black baby — an apparent reference to the trend of Hollywood celebs adopting black children in recent years.

(Photo Credit: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)