×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscar-Nominated Actor Hal Holbrook Defends Nate Parker, ‘Birth of a Nation’

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times, Oscar-nominated actor Hal Holbrook (“All the President’s Men,” “Into the Wild”) has defended Nate Parker’s embattled film “The Birth of a Nation” in the face of an “apparent rebuff at the box office.”

The film, which released Oct. 7, has managed to gross just $12 million at the domestic box office. Fox Searchlight spent $17.5 million to acquire the film at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

“It is an exceptional piece of artistry and a vital portrait of our American experience in trying to live up to ideals we say we have,” Holbrook wrote of the slavery drama. “No one should miss it — no one who respects our country and its long struggle to define itself.”

The actor goes on to express sorrow over the circumstances surrounding the film, and Parker, who came under fire in August when rape allegations stemming from a 1999 incident at Penn State University resurfaced and governed virtually all discourse surrounding the project.

“[L]et’s try for some honesty here,” Holbrook wrote. “If you want to make a list of the directors and actors who have rather public indiscretions, and who have in some cases been acquitted of them, start counting.”

An earlier version of the letter called attention to filmmaker Roman Polanski’s well-publicized criminal history. “‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ as I recall, had a similar tag on its director,” Holbrook originally wrote. The New York Times has since removed that sentence, noting in a correction that “[a]n earlier version of this letter referred imprecisely to another movie whose director was involved in controversy. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was released nine years before the rape case involving its director, Roman Polanski.”

No further mention of Polanski was added to the actual content of the letter.

“What troubles me is this: Are we being particular here with this extraordinary film because it’s about the racist curse we are struggling to erase from our country and its director is black,” Holbrook went on to ask. “The curse is there. Go look at it. Do we have the courage to do that? It’s a fine work.”

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs similarly called on audiences to see the film on its own terms when cornered by TMZ photographers in August.

“That’s one issue; that’s his personal issue,” Isaacs said about the allegations at the time. “And then there’s the issue of the movie. The important thing is for people to see it and enjoy the film, be impressed by the film. And I think that is what is very important. People need to see this movie.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Olivia Colman in the film THE

    'The Favourite' Reigns in the Craft Categories of the European Film Awards

    Tragicomedy “The Favourite” has romped away with four craft prizes – cinematography, editing, costume design, and hair and make-up – of the European Film Awards. The craft awards were decided by a jury drawn from various below-the-line professions. The 32nd European Film Awards will take place on Dec. 7 in Berlin. Robbie Ryan picked up [...]

  • Love You Forever

    'Love You Forever' Heads for Valentine's Day Release

    Hong Kong’s Edko Films has set a February 2020 release for upcoming romantic drama “Love You Forever.” The film is directed by Yao Tingting, who previously made another nostalgic romance “Yesterday Once More,” which went on to enjoy a $27 million global success in 2016. Edko’s Bill Kong is named as producer. The new film [...]

  • The Irishman

    Film News Roundup: 'The Irishman' Wins Capri Film Festival Screenplay Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Steven Zaillian’s script for “The Irishman” wins an award, MGM hires a trio of marketing execs, MTV Documentary Films sets three new projects; and “The Caretaker of Lorne Field” is becoming a movie. AWARDS Steven Zaillian’s screenplay for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will receive the best original screenplay award at [...]

  • Saturday Fiction

    'Saturday Fiction' Yanked From China's Golden Rooster Film Festival on Eve of Debut

    Just a day before its scheduled China debut, director Lou Ye’s latest film, “Saturday Fiction,” has been pulled from its slot as the opener of the mainland’s Golden Rooster Film Festival because of unspecified “internal production problems,” according to Chinese film website Mtime. Speculation has been spreading online that it will also be yanked from [...]

  • DeVon Franklin

    DeVon Franklin Signs First-Look Deal at Paramount Pictures

    DeVon Franklin has signed a first-look producing deal at Paramount Pictures. Under his Franklin Entertainment banner, Franklin previously produced inspirational and faith-based films, including this year’s “Breakthrough,” starring Chrissy Metz, as well as “Miracles From Heaven,” with Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah, and the animated film “The Star,” toplined by Zachary Levi, Gina Rodriguez, Oprah [...]

  • Harriet Movie BTS

    'Harriet' Costume Designer Paul Tazewell on How He Crafted Harriet Tubman's Look

    For many, Harriet Tubman’s journey is one we’re taught about in school. We know she’s a heroine, an abolitionist who led slaves to their freedom via the underground railroad. Unless you’ve read the books by Kate Clifford Larson or Beverly Lowry, “We didn’t receive the whole story,” says costume designer Paul Tazewell. Until now. Kasi [...]

  • Viacom HQ LA

    ViacomCBS Sets HR and Inclusion Chiefs

    ViacomCBS has named corporate heads of HR and inclusion as the companies prepare for the merger that is set to close early next month. The soon-to-combine Viacom and CBS have tapped Nielsen alum Nancy Phillips to serve as exec VP and chief people officer. Viacom alum Marva Smalls will serve as global head of inclusion, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content