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Author Topic: Bee Vang, Actor who played Thao, Trashes "Gran Torino"  (Read 32093 times)
AKA23
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« on: June 06, 2013, 09:00:56 AM »

Since appearing in "Gran Torino" in 2008, Bee Vang has in recent years taken to trashing the film. I hadn't been aware of this until recently, but he gave an interview in 2010 to Louisa Schein, a cultural consultant who worked on the film. In the interview, which is excerpted here, he heavily criticizes the representation of the characters, the quality of the script, the acting, and Eastwood's "lack of direction." The interview is an interesting read but I was taken aback by it. I don't remember hearing any of these criticisms when the film was made, or when he was out promoting it. It also strikes me as odd that if he felt this way that he would accept the role and then thought that  he would be permitted to "improve" upon the script, when he had no experience as a writer or actor prior to making the film. What impressions does this leave you with? I'd love to get everyone's thoughts on this! 

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LS: So what went through your head when you started to hear about Gran Torino?

BV: I heard about the story and the ìsidesî ñ the excerpts from the script that were used for auditionsóand I was just really repulsed by what I read.

LV: Right. So Walt has to teach them the ìrightî way to behave, and to save the good ones from the bad. In the process, he valiantly takes the fall. Talk about your impressions of the plot, the script itself.

BV: The thing is, the story canít take place without those Hmong characters, especially mine. But in the end, itís Walt that gets glorified. We fade out in favor of his heroism. I felt negated by the script and by extension in my assuming the role.

LS: So you were uneasy about the lines and character descriptions. Why did you audition and
ultimately take the part?

BV: Friends kept pushing me to try out. I didnít take it seriously. Didnít think Iíd get the part. But when I was called back for another round of auditioning, I realized I wanted to be part of the hype, because this would become a great cultural event of our time, especially for Hmong. Most importantly, my intentions were, as I continued to audition and do my best, to try to improve on the script and the ways Hmong were portrayed.

LS: Did you feel you succeeded in creating this character?
BV: I added a lot of intonation and gestures to try to give Thao some dignity. For instance, when my sister is offering me to work for Walt, I raised my voice to a shout to indicate I hated the idea of slaving for Walt. That outburst wasnít in the script. But most of the script was not very open to interpretation and it was premised on his not having any dignity. He needs to be clueless and have no self-respect in order for the white elder man to achieve his savior role. He has to hang his head and absorb abuse. So it makes me wonder how a character like Thao could bring any change to Walt.

LS: What did this mean in terms of your process, then?
BV: The roadblock for me was that I couldnít identify with Thao as the demeaned boy that he was. All the while, hearing that my performance was to be as a so-called ìnatural,î I found myself resisting the character more and more. So I had to draw instead on my best acting skills to counter my feelings about Eastwoodís lack of direction.

How did you feel about the result?
BV: Thatís a difficult one. I know I gave it my all, but at the same time, it doesnít look like stellar acting to me. I just wished that perhaps the physical acting aspect would at least be recognizable. Also, itís funny, when I watch the final product of Gran Torino, I often have the impression that the takes they chose for each scene were my weakest. Iím not sure what thatís about.

LS: Say more about the role itself.

BV: But then I think that maybe itís not about the quality of my acting. Itís the fact of the character being unsympathetic because of his weakness. Itís an odd thing, as a first time actor, to have to step into a role thatís disparaged by the script and humiliated by the other characters. Playing him well is like making a deal with the devil. To the extent that I did a good job, I reinforced that image of effeminate Asian guys who are wimps, geeks and canít advocate for themselves.

http://hmongstudies.org/ScheinVangHSJ11.pdf
« Last Edit: June 06, 2013, 04:27:15 PM by AKA23 » Logged
antonis
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2013, 09:48:56 AM »

Nice hearing a Shakespearean actor commenting on the directorial skills of an inexperienced director.
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KC
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2013, 09:47:56 PM »

As AKA mentions, this interview is not new, and in fact I thought we had already discussed it here somewhere, though I can't seem to locate it.

At any rate, Mr. Vang has certainly changed his tune since the early days of the film's release. See these posts, among others:

http://www.clinteastwood.org/forums/index.php?topic=7550.msg134216#msg134216

http://www.clinteastwood.org/forums/index.php?topic=7550.msg131763#msg131763
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AKA23
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« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2013, 01:08:04 PM »

Nice hearing a Shakespearean actor commenting on the directorial skills of an inexperienced director.

Antonis, that's one of the clearest and shortest articulations of a thought that I've heard in a long time. You say so much with so little. I could learn a lot from you!

This just seems very disloyal to me. Eastwood gave him the opportunity to appear in a film when he had no acting experience whatsoever. He also gave his community their first opportunity ever to appear in a major motion picture. Without appearing in this film, millions of people would have no idea who the Hmong people were. I had never even heard of them before "Gran Torino" was made. I think it's likely true that the production team was not as culturally sensitive as he might have liked, but Eastwood had very little time to make this film, and the changes he likely wanted made may have been more culturally appropriate but likely would not have really done anything to add to the story. This was a movie, not a documentary on the Hmong. It's primary purpose was to entertain, not inform. 

It seems to me like Mr. Vang wants to have it both ways. He wanted to appear in the film and then once he had gained everything he could from doing that, he has taken to criticizing it relentlessly. That, to me, is not an appropriate thing to do. I can't understand how he could possibly appear in the film if he was repulsed by the story as much as he said. If he felt it was such a terrible story and that the characters were all there to serve as window dressing for the white man with a savior complex, than what was it that attracted him to the film in the first place? His explanations don't make any sense. To me, it seems like these were concerns for him all along, but that he saw doing the film as a net positive. Now that he has already done the film, he seems to see opportunity in turning himself into a cultural critic. He sounds like someone who has been indoctrinated by liberal critics, and who is looking to exploit his experiences making this movie as much as possible.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2013, 02:07:25 PM by AKA23 » Logged
antonis
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« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2013, 04:50:21 AM »

Antonis, that's one of the clearest and shortest articulations of a thought that I've heard in a long time. You say so much with so little. I could learn a lot from you!


Very kind of you but,don't say that.

We have an old saying here in Greece.It says "don't bite the hand that feeds you".Suppose Mr Vang never heard it.
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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2013, 06:31:05 PM »



Bee Vang= Now working as a cashier @ Toys R Us
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Doug
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« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2013, 12:42:14 AM »

What's funny is he was a 90-pound twerp playing the role of a 90-pound twerp, and he's resentful that he wasn't portrayed as more masculine. LOL

Sure, kid, we get it, boys who like to help their grandma with the dishes represent the new "masculine." (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Still, he's basically right about some things: The script is weak, the acting is terrible, and its portrayal of minorities was too often cringe-worthy. The only reason the movie works is because of Clint's presence and his relationship with the kids. Neither could act, but both had a certain charm, and that goes a long ways.

This quote was too bizarre:

Quote
In my own upbringing, helping - especially helping elders - just didn't feel this way at all. It
didn't have any association with femininity. My Dad is a shaman. His sons are supposed to
assist him in ceremonies and it's an honor to do that. I felt that a lot growing up. We would carry
his stuff and set up for him. We would bow at the right times and we would support him to make
sure he was safe when he was in trance. We would sacrifice chickens for him while he
communicated with the spirits. I loved doing all that. I will miss it.
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« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2013, 12:28:34 AM »

It would be a shame if Bee Vang's career were to suffer because of his ill-judged decision to appear in a Clint Eastwood movie.
Then again, it's difficult to feel sympathy for anyone who lacks basic good manners or an understanding that karma can be a very cruel mistress.
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AKA23
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« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2013, 09:43:25 AM »

Thanks for your contributions to this thread, Doug and MacDave. What really gets me is that Bee Vang's comments now are totally inconsistent with his earlier comments. In this interview, he says that he couldn't identify with the script because it was so poorly written, and Felt that Thao was a really weak character, while when promoting the movie he said that he saw himself in Thao. Now, he is saying that Eastwood was a poor director of the movie, but earlier he said things like "I feel like I'm in really good hands" with Eastwood directing the movie. It's not possible for both of these sets of comments to be true. He was either lying then or is lying now. There is no other explanation. I think that what is most likely is that he always had reservations with the movie, but that he decided to do it because it would draw attention to the Hmong community and advance his own career. Now he sees an opportunity to advance himself by being a critic of the movie, so he is exaggerating these concerns now that he has benefited as much as possible from his participation in this movie. In my opinion, that is not good character.
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Perry
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« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2013, 06:56:49 PM »


Personally I dont think the script was weak and yeah Clint was commanding in it, but I thought Ahney Her was quite good for a novice. With a Box Office of $148 million ,Vang's dopey comments are useless......

                                               OX BO
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Doug
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2013, 05:02:32 AM »

Personally I dont think the script was weak and yeah Clint was commanding in it, but I thought Ahney Her was quite good for a novice. With a Box Office of $148 million ,Vang's dopey comments are useless......

                                               OX BOW

To clarify my own personal opinion of the script... I think it's weak with regards to its wooden dialogue. As well, too many of the minor characters are stock characters with no depth, and its treatment of minorities makes me think of some middle-class, uptight white guy doing a very bad imitation of street slang. The basic story is fine...obviously. With Clint inhabiting the role, Walt becomes a very iconic character, and that is where the movie shines.
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AKA23
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« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2013, 04:40:00 PM »

To clarify my own personal opinion of the script... I think it's weak with regards to its wooden dialogue. As well, too many of the minor characters are stock characters with no depth, and its treatment of minorities makes me think of some middle-class, uptight white guy doing a very bad imitation of street slang. The basic story is fine...obviously. With Clint inhabiting the role, Walt becomes a very iconic character, and that is where the movie shines.

As you say, the best part of this movie is Clint Eastwood's depiction of Walt. I also think the story is actually pretty strong thematically. I'm not really sure what you mean by wooden dialogue though. I think the reason that some of the dialogue didn't sound great was because the actors didn't really have much acting experience. Can you give some examples of the wooden dialogue you are referring to? I thought the written dialogue itself was fine. To me, the delivery was what was lacking.
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Perry
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« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2013, 07:59:50 PM »


The only thing lacking in the script was I thought Walt should had made a move on Yum-Yum....
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Doug
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« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2013, 06:01:47 AM »

As you say, the best part of this movie is Clint Eastwood's depiction of Walt. I also think the story is actually pretty strong thematically. I'm not really sure what you mean by wooden dialogue though. I think the reason that some of the dialogue didn't sound great was because the actors didn't really have much acting experience. Can you give some examples of the wooden dialogue you are referring to? I thought the written dialogue itself was fine. To me, the delivery was what was lacking.

Come now, AKA... I don't have the time or inclination to go through the script with you, but for starters... All the dialogue with Walt's son is lame. The dialogue with the priest is lame. Most of the dialogue that comes out of Sue's mouth is lame, such as when their cousin and his gangbanger friends visit them at the house, and when she's walking with Scott Eastwood and they encounter the three black men. In fact that whole scene is embarrassing to watch. Clint Eastwood's character has more than his share of insipid dialogue, but Clint covers it up by growling all of it. Nothing that comes out of his granddaughter's mouth rings true, except in a general way. Yes, she's the disrespectful teenager, we get it. And that is what people respond to. But the dialogue itself, whether on the page or voiced by these bad actors, is wooden and clumsy. And it does nothing more than serve as a giant indicator of a stock character. Is there any subtlety to the daughter asking for Walt's belongings when he dies? No, there isn't. It's blunt and wooden, giving no indication of an actual person trying to manipulate or charm her grandfather. Which is what you'd expect in real life. Or what you'd expect from a talented screenwriter bringing to life a character who isn't a cardboard cutout. But here we get no depth, just a shallow representation of the "disrespectful youth." A cardboard cutout. A screenwriter-created stock character fulfilling a role for the story and theme. You can see the writer working very hard expanding on his ideas and bolstering his theme, but without the skill to make it convincing on an intimate level.

It's great that you like the movie so much, but the script is hardly great. Not when you compare it to scripts that are great. I wouldn't even rank this in my top twenty favorite (or best) Eastwood movies, but I enjoy the story, and I do enjoy Eastwood in it, but I think it's been severely overrated by a lot of people on this board and elsewhere--and for reasons I suspect, but won't go into.
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« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2013, 05:11:59 AM »

Wow, this was all both interesting and disturbing.  I think Kid Vang is shooting himself in the foot with respect to his supposed acting career, what little there is of it at this early stage.  I, too, consider it bad taste for him to say positive things about the movie and Eastwood during the making and promoting of Gran Torino and then to do an about face, saying negative things after the movie's been out and his involvement has ended.  Shame on him.  Honestly, I doubt he's got much of a career in film ahead of him.

As for the film, I thought it was very good.  I found everything to be just fine about it.  It's no masterpiece, but it's not meant to be but I still found it to be an enjoyable film and entertaining.  It was great to see Clint acting again.  I didn't have a problem with any of the acting or writing.  The scenes were executed well enough to satisfy my expectations.  For the latter part of his career, this remains one of my favorite Eastwood films.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2013, 05:20:05 AM by Jed Cooper » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: July 06, 2013, 07:29:16 AM »

As for the film, I thought it was very good.  I found everything to be just fine about it.  It's no masterpiece, but it's not meant to be but I still found it to be an enjoyable film and entertaining.  It was great to see Clint acting again.  I didn't have a problem with any of the acting or writing.  The scenes were executed well enough to satisfy my expectations.  For the latter part of his career, this remains one of my favorite Eastwood films.


That's pretty much spot on for me, too. I don't think it was perfect or a best ever, but it was a solid stage for Clint to do his thing. I also can't disagree with Bee Vang's critique talking to other Hmong people and saying he wishes he'd been the hero rather than the straight man... but that's true of Sondra Locke et al. in Josey Wales, the settlers in Pale Rider, the townspeople in High Plains Drifter. Can't have a hero if you don't have people who need one. In my book, Vang is also right to aspire to that as a person/actor and a member of a group coming into the spotlight... but he should also be proud that he was (one of?) the first to put Hmong on the big screen. Bruce Lee started with Kato...Charles Bronson played stock indians. Plus he's a kid, he's allowed to look back even a couple years and think "Why the hell did I do that?" He probably skated the edge of basic rudeness, or showed a lack of professional smartness (why taint yourself when you don't have to?)... but then again Eastwood critiqued himself and the business similarly and made something out of it. Of course, Bee Vang ain't no Clint Eastwood...

As far as the characters, I found their attitudes pretty amusing and appropriate in their curtness, having come from that area myself. If anything they could have been fleshed out...but as it was, whenever they were on I was thinking "Get back to Walt" anyway. A good friend also grew up on a Detroit street like that (little tighter row houses), worked at Cadillac from age 19, had TWO bada-- cars in the garage, cherry red '69 Camaro convertible and Forest green '69 Z28, dressed just like Walt, though couldn't have been kinder or gentler. So mea culpa as far as extenuating motives. But the movie also lead to the gangbangers across the street from me getting run off by yours truly...so it's hard for me to argue against it being an influential piece of art. Our neighborhood still talks about it being a better place since they were run out -- as a direct result of a Clint Eastwood film, since it was impossible for this tall white guy to walk out his door and see the pack of gangbangers tearing up the street, and having seen the film just prior to thier arrival, and NOT take the Walt tack (dialed back a few notches). Funk that $#!t, as the kids would say. And get off my lawn...

« Last Edit: July 06, 2013, 07:38:59 AM by Whistledixie » Logged
Perry
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« Reply #16 on: July 07, 2013, 10:13:01 AM »



Gran Torino is Eastwood's 3rd best movie behind DH, and TOJW...

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« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2013, 09:32:42 AM »


I wouldn't even rank this in my top twenty favorite (or best) Eastwood movies, but I enjoy the story, and I do enjoy Eastwood in it, but I think it's been severely overrated by a lot of people on this board and elsewhere
Yep. Completely agree with Doug on this one.

Which doesn't mean that Bee Vang was right to say what he said.
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« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2014, 08:38:50 PM »

I didn't think Gran Torino was "all that great" but it was OK.  This whining kid seems like a real loser.
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« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2014, 11:27:42 AM »

While I don't consider Gran Torino to be a masterpiece either, but it is a pretty good movie.  And to me it is very entertaining.  The script of movies is very important to me on whether or not I like a movie very much or not.  But the entertainment value is just as important to me as well.  So I consider Gran Torino to be my favorite CE movie that's not a western and not a Dirty Harry.  Because I thoroughly enjoyed it and it entertained me a lot.  Million Dollar Baby is a much better script with better actors.  But it didn't entertain me as much as Gran Torino did. 
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