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Why Some Native Actors Quit 'Ridiculous Six'


No one is shocked to find tasteless jokes in an Adam Sandler movie. But this week, about a dozen actors walked off the set of a new Sandler movie, saying it goes too far. It's a parody called "The Ridiculous Six," playing off "The Magnificent Seven," and it's being produced by Netflix. And the actors who walked off - all Native American - say aspects of the film were disrespectful to Native Americans and that the script included characters names that were offensive to native women. Vincent Schilling broke the story this week for Indian Country Today media network. And, Vincent, you're Native American yourself, and you've been talking with a number of the actors who walked off the set. What'd they tell you they knew about the movie before arriving on set?

VINCENT SCHILLING: Well, specifically the actor Loren Anthony, you know, he called me and he says well, he was offered the role at first and he said no, I'm not interested. And he was assured by staff there that, oh, no, this is going to be tasteful. We've hired a cultural consultant, no worries at all. And after they told him that and reassured him, he said OK, all right, I will.

RATH: So give us a quick rundown of who walked off the set and when - you know, what triggered it?

V. SCHILLING: Sure. These were walk-on roles, extra roles. And this was a large group of native actors, who - many of them had never acted before. Loren Anthony's actually done quite a few productions. But some of the folks that were in this were native elders, native women. And they were sitting in a village that had tepees, which was not Comanche, and they were wearing costume and regalia that were not reflective of Apache. And the cultural consultant was saying hey, this is not right, and they were dismissing him. Loren Anthony himself told me that he says, you know, Vince, I was doing it for a while, and I just kept getting uneasy, uneasy. And then when they started talking about, you know, urinating with a peace pipe, he says that it was just toilet humor. And he says he understands it's an Adam Sandler movie; he gets it. But this just went too far and beyond, and the disrespect to native women and elders was just too much.

RATH: Vincent, you have a weekly show called Native Trailblazers, and you had Loren Anthony on just last night. Here's a clip of him talking about his reaction.


LOREN ANTHONY: I thought about my sisters. I thought about, you know, the women in my life. I thought about, you know, if I had a daughter, you know, would I want her to be called that?

RATH: Well, Netflix's response to this - I'll read their statement about the movie - it's called "The Ridiculous Six." They say, quote, "the movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason - because it is ridiculous. It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularize, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of, but in on, the joke.

V. SCHILLING: Right. Well, you know, if we're in on the joke, then why can't we be part of the process? So if you want to be ridiculous, great. But then why have a cultural consultant if you're not going to listen to him? I hear what Netflix is saying - yeah, OK, the title's ridiculous - but people are telling native people how to be offended and when they can be offended without consulting them.

RATH: And again, on your program last night, on the topic of those who decided not to leave, here's 71-year-old actor Dan Hill - what he had to say about those who stayed on the movie.


DAN HILL: Some didn't leave, but my heart goes out to them because I know they

wanted to. There was some...


HILL: There were some - some elder ladies there who were almost in tears over this because...


HILL: ...They know they're going to be in a movie, and they need the money to take care of their families and stuff. And yet, they don't want to be associated with something that is so derogatory of native people.

RATH: And that was your wife Delores Schilling, who co-hosts...


RATH: ...That...


RATH: ...The program with you there.

V. SCHILLING: Right, right. You know, Dan really kind of brought it home. And this is a job and this pays bills and this helps the family. And there's also some that are excited to be in a movie. And, you know, like Dan said, they probably wanted to leave. And it's unfortunate because Indian Country gets criticized because, you know, well, then you're staying on and people take that as a message to say, well, then everything is OK. But, you know, everything is not OK. It's not all right to go this far.

RATH: Vincent Schilling, the journalist who broke the story about the dozen Native American actors who walked off the set of Adam Sandler's new movie. Vincent, thanks very much.

V. SCHILLING: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate you having me, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.