The controversial film that ruined C. Thomas Howell’s career

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In the 1980s, actor C. Thomas Howell was a teenager and a successful movie star. Howell made his film debut in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 blockbuster “AND the Extra-Terrestrial”, he quickly went from supporting actor to leading man. Howell played the sensitive “greaser” Ponyboy Curtis in director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 big-screen adaptation of HE Hinton’s novel “The Outsiders,” whose ensemble cast included future Hollywood superstars Diane Lane, Matt Dillon. , Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, and Ralph Macchio.

C. Thomas Howell has appeared in some beloved cult classics of the 80s, featuring a real who’s who of Hollywood stars. He teamed up with Swayze for 1984’s “Grandview, USA”, which also stars Screaming Queen Jamie Lee Curtis, siblings John and Joan Cusack and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Perhaps Howell’s most viewed and enduring film is 1984’s “Red Dawn,” which followed a group of Midwestern teenagers in the aftermath of a Soviet attack on the United States. sex comedy “Secret Admirer” and a motorist on the run from a murderous vagrant in “The Hitcher” from 1986.

While many of Howell’s co-stars went on to become Oscar winners and nominees, starring in critical and commercially successful films, he never reached the same level of fame, and his role in a controversial comedy did. derail his promising film career.

C. Thomas Howell appeared in blackface for the film Soul Man

In 1986, C. Thomas Howell starred in the comedy “Soul Man”, playing law student Mark Watson, who masqueraded as a black man (overdose on tanning pills and an afro wig) to get a scholarship. “Soul Man” was directed by Steve Miner (“Switched at Birth”, “Lake Placid”) and written by Carol L. Black (“The Wonder Years”, “Ellen”). Howell appeared in blackface for the role, sparking controversy and condemnation from the Los Angeles Chapter of the NAACP (via The Lewiston Daily Sun). The UCLA Black Student Alliance protested the film against “” false statements about the economic realities black students face at school, “and the president of the Beverly Hills chapter of the NAACP accused the film’s creators for being both racist and sexist (via The Hollywood Reporter) “Soul Man” has a 13% rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

During a 1986 appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show,” when asked by the talk show host about his objections to the film, director Spike Lee said he found both the premise and the execution of the movie. imperfect movie. Lee saw this as an attack on affirmative action and thought that the idea that Howell’s character might pass for Black made the black characters in the film look like “idiots.”

C. Thomas Howell calls Soul Man “innocent”

What could be more puzzling than how this movie got the green light is the rejection of the stars of the film regarding the criticism surrounding “Soul Man”. Actress Rae Dawn Chong. who played the love interest of Howell’s character and his fellow law student, defended the film as recently as 2015. “Our little movie was decried by the black community led by a jealous Spike Lee, who didn’t ‘never seen the movie,’ Chong told The Hollywood Reporter.

C. Thomas Howell also addressed the controversy. “A white man wearing a blackface is taboo. The conversation is over, you can’t win. But our intentions were pure. We wanted to make a funny movie that had a message about racism,” Howell told The Hollywood Reporter. In 2013, Howell told The AV Club: “It’s an innocent movie, it has innocent messages, and there are some very, very Deep messages. And I think the people who haven’t seen him and judge him are horribly wrong. I am proud of the performance and I am proud of the people who participated in it. “

Although Howell continued to work steadily, appearing on “Criminal Minds”, “The Walking Dead”, “Animal Kingdom” and “SEAL Team”, his film career has been unimpressive, especially compared to those of his contemporaries 80s. Three decades ago, he was a big movie star, and now his most publicized role on the big screen was as Jack’s father in “The Amazing Spider-Man” in 2012. As it seems, “Soul Man “left an indelible stain on the actor’s cinematic legacy.


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