Day Two of the Berlin Film Festival welcomed John Michael McDonagh’s corrupt cop comedy, War On Everyone, which is running in the Panorama Special section. McDonagh is in Australia and was not able to attend the afternoon press conference, but stars Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard were in town along with producer Chris Clark. Though the discussion ranged from McDonagh’s particular brand of humor, to the abuse of mimes as a comic device, it inveitably turned to the debate over diversity at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Asked what they thought of #OscarsSoWhite, Pena said, “That’s a tough one. I don’t know what to think about it. Is it kind of champagne problems? ‘Oh, I didn’t get nominated, but I’m rich’? Would it be nice if there was a little bit more diversity? Yeah, that would be cool. I haven’t seen every single film so I don’t know” who deserves a nomination and who doesn’t. “But, it’s cool that the dialogue is open. It’s an industry full of artists so it’s good to have a voice.”
Pena, whose parents immigrated to Chicago from Mexico, wondered aloud who the culprit in the situation is. “Is it the voting body? Is it how many Latin American movies are there? How many Mexican Americans are making art house movies or big budget movies? The Revenant was made by Mexicans and they all got nominated, so where are they in the diversity conversation?,” he asked. Then, offered, “You can also say any voting body just sucks.”
Skarsgard for his part said he thinks #OscarsSoWhite is going to make a difference, “because there’s a dialogue now, people are talking. There are 20 actors nominated and they’re all white. I can’t point to anyone (else) who should have been nominated but systemically, it’s a problem that there’s not enough movies and TV shows (being made) for people who aren’t white.”
The former True Blood star said, “I don’t think the academy is discriminating against one performance or one movie that deserved more nominations. It’s that there’s not enough stories being told by people who aren’t white with actors of more diversity.”
War On Everyone was well-received today and pits Pena and Skarsgard as corrupt cops in New Mexico who routinely plant drugs on small-time hoods then consume it themselves until they become entangled in a web of blackmail, abduction and more drugs than they could ever have imagined. Pena said of the film, “The humor is different, it’s not like Ant-Man or something. It feels like a European film with American actors.” Skarsgard said he was hooked from the first page. “If you open a script and page one says ‘runs over a mime’ you want to keep reading after that.”