Take a minute to walk to your limousine in my Gucci shoes, and you’ll realize that I’m just trying to make people smile. Mickey Rooney with buckteeth and a crazy accent in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”? It’s so much funnier than finding a real Chinese actor just talking like himself. Then you’d have to get a screenwriter to actually write genuinely funny lines for that character. You get so much more comedy bang with buckteeth and a funny accent. I mean, it made me laugh.
Many people, including myself, were also convinced that Charlton Heston truly was a Mexican/Native American/Egyptian/Ape who talked to God. And I think I convinced a lot of Asians that Genghis Khan really did look like John Wayne back in the ’60s. Short Circuit was one of my biggest hit movies and I was completely convinced that Fisher Stevens was Indian. Who knew he was a Jewish guy from New York? That accent was spot on!
My point is, I’m not the bad guy. I’m just the rich guy. When you look at it through my studio executive lens, you understand how important it is that both white people and non-white people believe that Indians, Asians, Mexicans and Arabs are truly just white people in brown makeup. I don’t like thinking that way. I just don’t have the luxury not to. I’m a businessman.
– From “Whitewashing, A History,” in Salon
Update: via Racebending & Mediaite, check out Mandvi’s interview with CNN on the practice: