Thandie Newton, the Emmy and BAFTA-winning actress who's stolen scenes in everything from Solo to Westworld, has nearly 50 credits to her name over the span of a three-decade screen career. Throughout that time, there were projects that came and went, passing her by — the near-misses that happen to anyone in the industry. But one of the biggest projects that Newton didn't end up doing was the 2000 film adaptation of Charlie's Angels. Why? Newton says it was due to problems that came from the very top.
Speaking in a long interview with Vulture, Newton explained that there were two culprits behind her exit: director McG (aka Joseph McGinty Nichol), who made his film debut with Charlie's Angels, and former Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal.
The former's hyper-sexual approach to the film, allegedly explained in detail to Newton, was an immediate red flag to the actress, who has spoken out previously about being sexually abused on set when she was younger. "One of the biggest movies I didn’t end up doing was because the director said to me, 'I can’t wait for this. The first shot is going to be ... You’re going to think it’s like yellow lines down a road, and you pull back and you realize it’s the stitching, because the denim is so tight on your ass it’s going to look like tarmac,'" Newton remembered. "I was like, 'Oh, I don’t think we’re going to go down this road together.'"
Newton also recalled a conversation she says she had with Pascal.
"I had a meeting with [Pascal], and she said, 'Look, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but the character as written and you playing the role, I just feel like we’ve got to make sure that it’s believable,'" Newton said. "I was like, 'What do you mean? What changes would you have to make?'"
"She’s like, 'Well, you know, the character, as written, she’s been to university and is educated.' I’m like, 'I’ve been to university. I went to Cambridge.' She went, 'Yeah, but you’re different.' She’s like, 'Maybe there could be a scene where you’re in a bar and she gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty.' She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character. Everything she said, I was like, 'Nah, I wouldn’t do that.' She’s like, 'Yeah, but you’re different. You’re different.'"
In 2014, Pascal made headlines after a massive hack on Sony revealed emails of hers containing remarks perceived as racist — like commenting that then-President Barack Obama probably liked certain movies because of his race.
Newton referenced the content of Pascal's leaked emails as she recounted the studio head's supposed requests ("That’s not really a surprise, is it?") and explained that the behavior drove her to leave the film, saying, "Let’s face it: I didn’t do the movie as a result."
Pascal provided a statement to Vulture in response. “While I take her words seriously, I have no recollection of the events she describes, nor do any of her representatives who were present at that casting session,” she said. “I’ve long considered Thandie a friend; I’m thankful that I’ve had the chance to make movies with her; and I hope to work with her again in the future.”
Newton's role in Charlie’s Angels was eventually played by Lucy Liu.