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    Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper and the white-washed rom-com that nearly killed them both

    Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone in the movie “Aloha” Photo: Alami

    At this year's Oscars, there's a good chance Emma Stone will win Best Actress for her brilliant performance in Poor People (she's currently the bookmakers' favorite, having won the same award at the Baftas). And it's possible that Bradley Cooper will receive recognition for his work on the Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro”: after all, he was nominated for three awards.

    However, when Stone and Cooper's paths cross at the ceremony On March 10, as is inevitable, the two actors may exchange strained smiles and make a quick exit after the inevitable blowing kisses and declarations of mutual respect.

    This pair worked together only once, and the result was perhaps the lowest of their entire careers. The movie was Aloha, a 2015 romantic comedy and by rights it should have become a modern classic.

    All the ingredients for greatness were there, from the presence of Oscar-winning writer and director Cameron Crowe to a supporting cast that included everyone from Rachel McAdams to Bill Murray, not to mention the pre-scandal Alec Baldwin. Its Hawaii setting was unorthodox and interesting, with the potentially incendiary pairing of Cooper and Stone, as well as Crowe's ability to evoke pathos and bittersweetness, as with his mentor Billy Wilder, again on display.

    However, the result was a miserable failure that brought an end (to date) to Crowe's mainstream directorial career and turned a potential charming romantic comedy into a controversial red flag film. Some of its infamy was deserved, but it was also unfortunate that it was released, as the New York Times put it, “in a year when we were obsessed with identity.” “Aloha” immediately sparked controversy over alleged whitewashing, revolving around the quintessentially American Stone as a character who was supposed to be one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Hawaiian.

    After Crowe achieved commercial success with 2011's light-hearted family comedy We Bought a Zoo (and still maintaining the reputation he earned from Oscar-winning films Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous), he collaborated with then-powerful has now disgraced producer Scott Rudin by bringing to life an idea that he had back in 2006 and originally had Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon as its stars.

    His script, then called Deep Tiki, revolved around the relationship between a military contractor who finds himself in a love triangle between his now-married ex-girlfriend and an idealistic Air Force communications captain. Crowe described the film's premise as “about a second chance at life” and saw it as consistent with earlier films he had made.

    “This film is a continuation of the story that I have always tried to make,” the director said. “What does it mean to be an adult, what does it feel like to get older, who are your friends, who are the people that matter to you, who stays with you and who doesn’t, how you shape your life by continuing to live it. This film has a bittersweet quality, but it also has a real sense of hope.”

    Cameron Crowe, Emma Stone and Bradley Cooper on set in Los Angeles

    He soon learned his own lessons from the production, but hope was kept alive by the casting of Stone, who was then riding high on success in films such as The Easy Boy and The Help. “Emma’s character is focused on the future… [she] plays a military captain, a fighter pilot, speeding through the sky,” he said with bewilderment of his female lead. “She has lived on the elixir of idealism and ambition, and she has to face what happens when you fall in love with a guy who lives in a gray area. What can you bring to him, and what can he bring to you?”

    Meanwhile, Stone admitted that she was very excited to work with the writer and director: “I love Cameron’s films. They are so imbued with authenticity. I trusted his vision and his ability to tell the story, his unique pacing and rhythm. I just wanted to be a part of this process.” She went on to call her role as Captain Allison Ng “his beautiful, strong, funny and dynamic character.” There are so many facets to what's happening to her, it was like finding a gold mine. She's a great example for women: she's a fighter pilot, she's sensitive, and she's falling in love for the first time.”

    The Hawaii location was also critical to Crowe, who stated, “I like my films to have the promise that anything can happen. It ended up being a film that I'm really proud of… I had to tell this story against the backdrop of Hawaii.” After the ensemble, including John Krasinski and Danny McBride, was assembled, filming took place in Hawaii in late 2013. At first everything seemed to be going well. Cooper emailed studio head Amy Pascal to say, “Deep Tiki is the best movie ever made.” Pascal, hoping for Oscar glory, wrote to Crowe in November 2013: “My love for Hawaii is equal to my love for you,” calling him “my favorite director” and toasting “the greatness of next year.” And then the troubles began.

    Bradley Cooper and Rachel McAdams in the movie “Aloha” Photo: Alami

    Initially, problems were related to scheduling: Cooper wrote to Pascal: “It was a very, very, very difficult film here in Hawaii.” However, two days later he was able to sound more positive, saying: “I think you'll be very happy. I'm glad everything worked out.” However, there were also hints of dissatisfaction, as in his remark that he had “just finished a day that started at 6:30 yesterday morning. Holy crap. Meanwhile, Crowe hinted that there were problems on set, saying in a March email to Pascal that “we have great options for all the roles except Bill Murray… who is very much who you saw.”

    Unfortunately, the problems then grew exponentially. Although the title of “Deep Tiki” was changed (and Crowe's proposed replacement for “Vulcan Romance” was also scrapped) in favor of “Stat Aloha”, which producer Rudin called “super smart”, the film was still in serious trouble. As Pascal emailed Rudin in October 2013: “No reshoots… Do we need them? Will it matter? We have them in the budget because we have less of them, but look. It's a fairytale and that's what we were going for.”

    She then told Crowe the next day, “I watched the movie with my family last night, and they were the ones who rushed out to see the movie because they liked the characters, but they were so confused… that it was still completely distracting. of them get used to the characters.” A frustrated Crowe responded: “Have been chasing all the notes for a year, most of them conflicting with each other… and it will end up with the same people arguing over the same conflicting notes in the lobby of the theater where we held viewing. »

    Emma Stone and Bradley Cooper in the movie “Aloha” Photo: Alami

    After a series of curt and aggressive letters from Pascal, along the lines of “You can't avoid me forever,” the director responded with a lengthy and exasperated response about what he considered her mistreatment of his film. “I hate to be difficult, but I have a bad feeling… A rushed show… and no [Rudin], no unified thinking with our brilliant producer – and for what? I was already standing in this lobby. Viewers will not be prepared for the uniqueness of the film. The result will be devastating if we are not very careful in how we act. I just can't sit and watch this happen.”

    He concluded by saying, “I will always be your positive partner and have proven myself to be a tireless collaborator for all of our executives and financial partners… I will give you a beautiful version of this film by October 31st and you can do whatever you want with it! I know you will do what you must, but I will not be true to my best instincts, the ones that have always served me, unless I ask you again to wait and show the film properly.”

    If this was intended to calm Pascal, it failed. A studio executive was horrified after disastrous test screenings showed they had an A-grade flop on their hands. Complaining about the film's costs (“We've got a lot of money on this film and we'd better see it”), she sent an email Sony executives firmly placed the blame on Crowe, stating: “Cameron never really changed anything… People don't like people in movies who flirt with married people, or married people who flirt… I'll never act again.” in a movie, if the script is ridiculous, and we all know it… Scott [Rudin] never did it. go to the set, or help us in the editing room, or fix the script.”

    Six months before the film's release, it was all but considered a flop, and then, in one of those tragicomic failures that plagues the film industry, North Korean hackers leaked Sony emails to the world. The complex relationship between Crowe, his studio and the actors was exposed for all to see.

    If this was the end of the embarrassment, it would have been bad enough, but no one realized that upon release, Aloha would become infamous for Stone's performance and the general representation of Caucasian actors to the blatant exclusion of Indigenous people. . The Asian American Media Action Network issued an angry statement saying, “This is part of a long line of films… that use Hawaii as an exotic backdrop but go out of their way to exclude the very people who live there. It is an insult to Hawaii’s diverse culture and foundations.”

    Sony reacted harshly at first. “While some have been quick to condemn a film they have not seen and a script they have not read, Aloha respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people,” the statement said. But Crowe issued his own statement, saying: “I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I sincerely apologize to anyone who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice.”

    If the film had been successful, the controversy might have died down. But it was a significant flop, thanks to months of dismal publicity surrounding it: It grossed $26 million and cost twice as much. It didn't help that Stone distanced herself from the film and her role in it shortly after its release: “I became the butt of a lot of jokes,” she said. “On a macro level, I learned about the crazy history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how widespread the problem really is. It started a very important conversation.”

    She concluded: “There are a lot of conversations about how we want people to be seen on screen and what we need to change as a business to reflect culture more clearly rather than in an idealized way. There are some flaws in the system… This year has opened my eyes to a lot of things.”

    Stars Rachel McAdams and Emma Stone with director Cameron Crowe at the premiere of Aloha, May 2015. Photo: WireImage

    “Aloha” soon became synonymous with Hollywood crassness and whitewashing at its most basic and opportunistic. Actress Sandra Oh burst into this monologue at the 2019 Golden Globes when she joked that Crazy Rich Asians was “the first studio film to feature an Asian American cast since Ghost in the Shell.” non-Asian Scarlett Johansson). ] and Aloha.” Stone, who was in the audience, shouted “I’m so sorry!”, and Crowe’s humiliation was complete.

    “We worked on the character for about a year,” he later said. “The fact that she would discover any disturbance and that this would happen is heartbreaking to me. So, lessons have been learned. And you will see them in the next film.” Although the next film has yet to be released, Crowe remained philosophical, saying, “All these films are a journey. Sometimes the destination is not exactly what you were aiming for. But the joy of the journey is everything.”

    Even though his relationship with Stone didn't end smoothly, hope is eternal. The director was still able to say: “Working with Emma was wonderful, and I hope we have this chance again.” Somehow this seems unlikely.

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