Nicole Kidman Refuses to Say “N***er” in Film

I’ve always enjoyed watching Nicole Kidman on the big screen.  I find her subtle facial expressions very appealing.  Last year she played Charlotte Bless in “The Paperboy,” a film directed by Lee Daniels.  Nicole’s character is the hot-blooded finance of Hillary Van Wetter, a white male death row prisoner.  She joins forces with a white journalist (Ward) and his Black partner (Yardly) who suspect Hillary was falsely accused of murder.

According to the film reviews, this movie deals with crime, sexuality, class difference and racism in a small Florida town in the 1960s.  I didn’t see it because I didn’t want to be racially jarred.   When the cast was making the film, the Black director instructed Nicole to refer to a Black character as “n***er.”  She refused.  Lee was frustrated and made attempts to have her say the slur but she held her ground.  She said she didn’t think “it was right for the character” and then she added she has “a son who’s African-American and I just didn’t feel it was right.”

Had she not been the mom of a Black son this might not have been an issue, after all she is an actress who was playing a racist.  She’s also known for taking great risks, but when it came to perhaps racially offending her Black child, this mother-actress put on the brakes.  Whether she did this because she was aware he personally encountered racism or if she refrained because she thought it might be hard on his ears or his heart, whatever the reason, she took a strong stand on his behalf.

I often wonder about that slur in relation to established Black actors.  Many movies contain the epithet “n***er.”  Films that aren’t otherwise even racial contain “n***er” because it’s a white film industry obsession.  To what degree do well-known Black actors silently go along with this?  When they receive non-racial movie scripts that contain “n***er,” does anyone question why the slur is even in the scene? Does anyone say, “I don’t think my character would say something like this” and refuse to say it?  Does a Black actor point out, “This movie has nothing to do with race yet it contains “n***er” 20 times.  Can we cut that number in half?” Sometimes Black actors use that slur a lot when they improvise a scene.  What motivates them to go the “n***er” route?


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