Stonewall director Roland Emmerich says lead character had to be 'straight-acting'

Emmerich has defended his choice of casting a white, middle class hero after the film was accused of 'whitewashing' and 'trans-erasure' 

Daisy Wyatt
Thursday 24 September 2015 12:49 BST
Jeremy Irvine as lead character Danny in Stonewall
Jeremy Irvine as lead character Danny in Stonewall

The director of upcoming film Stonewall has defended the movie’s central white, middle-class hero, claiming wider audiences need a “straight-acting” character to identify with.

Roland Emmerich, who is best known for blockbusters such as Godzilla and Independence Day, said he wanted the film to appeal to straight people as well as the LGBT community.

The film follows a fictional character who incites the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, which sparked the US gay rights movement.

But it drew criticism following the release of the trailer earlier this year for centring on white, middle class characters, instead of focussing on a diverse group of real-life people, such as the African American transgender activist Marsha P Johnson.

A petition to boycott the “whitewashed” film has received more than 24,000 signatures. It states: “It is time that black and brown transwomyn (sic) and drag queens are recognised for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation.”

Emmerich told Buzzfeed: “You have to understand one thing: I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people.

Jeremy Irvine will star as fictional character Danny in gay rights movie Stonewall

“I kind of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, [Danny] is a very easy in. Danny’s very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him.”

His comments have been met with anger on Twitter:

Irvine has previously defended claims of whitewashing and trans-erasure in the movie, adding Marsha P Johnson is a “major” part of the film.

He said: “To anyone with concerns about the diversity of the Stonewall movie. I saw the movie for the first time last week and can assure you all that it represents almost every race and section of society that was so fundamental to one of the most important civil rights movements in living history.”

Roland Emmerich's Stonewall reaches cinemas later this year

He continued: “Marsha P Johnson is a major part of the movie, and although first hand accounts of who threw the first brick in the riots vary wildly, it is a transvestite black character played by the very talented Vlad Alexis who pulls out the first brick in the riot scenes.”

The actor added he thought the story was driven by a Puerto Rican transvestite, played by Jonny Beauchamp, who leads his character’s gang.

Stonewall is released later this year.

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