Thandie Newton left 'Charlie's Angels' after disturbing racial encounter with Amy Pascal

“She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character."
Image: Thandie Newton
Thandie Newton speaks during the screening and panel discussion of "Westworld" at Wolf Theatre on March 6, 2020 in North Hollywood, Calif.Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic - Getty Image file

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By Variety

“Westworld” star Thandie Newton revealed several stories about shocking behavior she’s encountered from Hollywood executives and creatives over the course of her career in a provocative interview with Vulture. The actor cited incidents ranging from press coverage of her alleged sexual assault to what she remembers as a racist encounter with former Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal.

The actor detailed the trauma she experienced at age 16, when she was allegedly groomed and sexually abused by director John Duigan while working on the set of the 1991 movie “Flirting,” when he was 39. The press referred to it as an affair, and this, Newton said, left her re-traumatized.

“If someone brought it up — and of course they’re going to bring it up in a f—ing interview, man — if they spoke about it in a way that’s not sympathetic or they called it an affair, it was insult to injury. It’s like re-abuse,” Newton said. “I think the reason I talked about it a lot, too, is I’m trying to find someone who understands. I’m looking for help. It’s so fucking obvious to me. What is the point if we don’t expose what needs to be exposed?”

Newton said that experience seeped into her choices to pursue certain films. She recalls turning down Sony Pictures’ “Charlie’s Angels” remake in particular because the director wanted to highlight her body in the opening scene.

“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 ass it’s going to look like tarmac,” Newton said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think we’re going to go down this road together.'”

Amy Pascal attends the "Little Women" World Premiere on Dec. 7, 2019 at Museum of Modern Art in New York City.Paul Bruinooge / Patrick McMullan via Getty Image file

Then, Newton met with Pascal, who was fired in 2015 after an email hack of the company surfaced problematic messages, including interactions with producer Scott Rudin debating whether President Barack Obama’s favorite films were those with largely Black casts such as “Think Like a Man” and “Django Unchained.” In the meeting, Pascal told Newton that the movie would have to make her character “believable” as a college-educated woman. Pascal then suggested that there could be a scene in a bar where Newton’s character “gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty.”

“She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character,” Newton said. “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.”

A representative for Pascal did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Pascal told Vulture that she did not recall the conversation but was “horrified” by the story.

“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,” Pascal said. “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.”

On another occasion while working on the Netflix drama “Rogue,” Newton said she refused to take her top off during her first sex scene in the series. She didn’t think that it was right for the particular shot.

“It didn’t make sense for the story with the two characters playing husband and wife who are kind of estranged. I was like, ‘It just doesn’t make any sense to take it off,'” Newton said. “He goes, ‘Listen, kid. Thandie Newton. Top off. Ratings.’ And I laughed. I was actually really grateful for the honesty. And I’m like, ‘Well, listen. Then definitely f—ing not.’ But he still got the other actor to pull my top down in the scene. And that’s what’s there.”

Once Newton signed on for “Westworld,” the writers at “Rogue” killed her character off “miserably,” dumping her into a garbage-disposal tank. The garbage disposal read “Westworld Garbage Disposal.”

“I ended up in the fetal position, weeping, sobbing. I had put two years of hard work into that show. And there I was: Westworld Garbage Disposal,” Newton said.