Lloyd Evans

Ben Shapiro’s battle with Hollywood

Ben Shapiro's battle with Hollywood
Ben Shapiro Image: Getty
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The sacking of Gina Carano is still creating waves in Hollywood. The martial artist turned movie actress was dropped from the Star Wars spin-off, The Mandalorian, after blocking BLM supporters on Twitter and stating that being a Republican in Hollywood was like being a Jew during the Holocaust. She compounded her sins by suggesting that voter fraud had affected the result of the 2020 election. Her employers, Lucasfilm, dismissed her views as ‘abhorrent’ and accused her of, ‘denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities.’ Carano was also dropped by her management company, United Talent Agency. (So much for ‘united.’) 

Then came the backlash. The pro-Republican commentator Michael Knowles claimed that Carano had got the sack, ‘for being a conservative.’ The satirist Bill Maher, an unlikely ally on the left, likened her dismissal to the anti-communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era. The Mandalorian was already struggling in the ratings and Carano’s removal is likely to drag it down further. The popular YouTube commentator, YellowFlash, said, ‘If you take something that’s already weak and throw out one of the things that people like about it most, you’ve got to wonder if it’s going to last.’

Disney, which owns the Star Wars franchise, has been accused of pandering to woke extremists on Twitter and ignoring the subscribers who pay hard cash for the company’s products. And earnings are a big problem with revenues from theme parks drying up during the pandemic.

The controversy brought Carano to the attention of Ben Shapiro who co-founded and edited the Daily Wire. Recently he announced his plan to start a film studio as a counter-weight to the left-leaning orthodoxy of Hollywood. Carano is said to have signed up for ‘a new movie project.’

Shapiro’s career as a mogul is in its infancy. So far his studio has acquired a single title, Run, Fight, Hide, which was completed in 2020 before Shapiro got involved. He owns the distribution rights. The film, written and directed by Kyle Rankin, is an all-action story about a teenage killing spree. It’s entertaining but hardly a classic.

A gang of heavily armed misfits burst into their old school and take hostages at gunpoint. They randomly mow down dozens of victims while live-streaming the atrocity on social media. A lone teenage girl manages to avoid the ambush and masterminds a fightback against the murderous thugs. The parallels with other action-movies are easy to spot. It’s Die Hard with pig-tails. The teenage heroine is an unlikely saviour because she has no military training and she survives her ordeal thanks to good luck and a curious disdain for her own safety. And the baddies are not attractively evil. They’re just a bunch of arrogant dim-witted hot-heads who get what they deserve. The story becomes predictable. It’s like watching traffic lights change.

Shapiro’s involvement generated a fresh wave of notoriety for the movie. Its original backers, a Dallas-based outfit called Cinestate, were attacked in the press for failing to pay overtime to their technical staff. Another of their movies, Dragged Across Concrete, was described by the Daily Beast as ‘a nasty piece of police brutality apologia starring Mel Gibson.’ Meanwhile, crew members from Run, Fight, Hide, began to suffer fits of remorse. A second assistant director published a message on social media begging for his name to be removed from the credits. Obviously, he knew this wasn’t possible but perhaps he’d spotted a chance to advertise his availability for work while flaunting his credentials. ‘Hire me. I’m morally pure.’ 

The tendency for movie-makers to shun new projects unless the entire team shares the same ideology is bound to intensify. It’s not hard to predict where this will lead. The great fissure that divides US politics into the liberty-loving right and the ideological left will spread to Hollywood. And LaLa Land will be cleft in twain. The woke progressives will busy themselves making on-trend films with gender-balanced casts that ‘give a voice’ to oppressed minorities, while any director who espouses a more libertarian view will probably keep their cards close to their chest to avoid being stigmatised, or else head in the polarised direction of Shapiro.

If Ben Shapiro is serious about turning the Daily Wire in a major force in Hollywood he needs to recruit a team. Top of the list is an executive in charge of production. Rumour has it that Donald Trump is less busy than he used to be. He should send his CV to Shapiro.

Written byLloyd Evans

Lloyd Evans is The Spectator's sketch-writer and theatre critic

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