The saccharine conventions of showbusiness were thrown out of the window last week, when the Hollywood actress Maria Conchita Alonso was collared by paparazzi and asked if she was pleased about her former co-star Sean Penn’s recent Oscar victory.
“He’s an amazing actor. I can’t take that away from him,” she said of Penn, who worked with her on the 1988 cop film Colors. “It’s just that he has no clue at all what’s going on in Venezuela. He’s been praising Hugo Chavez, who is a dictator and a killer. He should shut up about what he doesn’t know.” Alonso, who was raised in Venezuela, was apparently upset by a glowing article that Penn had written for The Nation magazine about her homeland’s charismatic but increasingly dictatorial left-wing President.
In normal circumstances, Alonso’s interview might have been brushed under the carpet. But for the first time a Hollywood insider was saying what much of America thinks: left-wing luvvies in the movie business should wake up to the real nature of their hero. For one thing, Mr Chavez throughout his career has criticised Hollywood as a medium of American “cultural imperialism”. And Penn, who since his Oscar-winning performance in Milk has become a vociferous gay rights activist, is also open to allegations of hypocrisy.
The article came out in the UK’s Independent, which, unlike US newspapers dares point out,
The Venezuelan leader’s political hero, Fidel Castro, imprisoned and executed gay men, and once declared: “In this country [Cuba] there are no homosexuals.”
Benicio, unlike Maria Conchita, continued to display his characteristic cluelessness:
On Thursday, Benicio del Toro made headlines when he took tea with Mr Chavez at his palace in Caracas. The actor, in Venezuela to promote Steven Soderbergh’s film Che, told journalists that his host was “nice” and that he’d “had a good time”. Del Toro’s comments caused apoplexy on the political right in the US, but lately even Democrats have been perturbed by Mr Chavez’s intolerance of media criticism and political opposition.
Not that Benicio and Penn are alone: Danny Glover’s already fed at the petrodollar trough, receiving $18 million to make 2 movies; Oliver Stone’s making a biopic of Chavez, and Harry Belafonte schoomzes with Chavez as often as he can. Maybe they should all get together and make an Ocean’s 11 with Hugo as the casino owner?
Readers of this blog know Maria Conchita has spoken the truth about Venezuela in the past.
Special thanks to Larwyn and Don Surber.