I think that it takes five years for people to be somewhat accepted back into a fold. For unforgiving people, half of a decade is half-measured. There are 13 examples in the film industry which illustrate this – Bob Rafelson, Mel Gibson, Dustin Hoffman, Conan Lee, Victor Salva, Chin Siu-Ho, Martin Ritt, Jules Dassin, Dalton Trumbo, Gerard Depardieu, Ellen Chan, Megan Fox and Francis Ng Chun-Yu. As it turns out, a credit provider will have you blackballed for 5 years if you have unpaid bills for a certain amount of time. Once you’ve amended your ways, your record will be admonished after five years.
In 1982, director Bob Rafelson got into an altercation with a 20th Century Fox exec that not only resulted in him being dropped as director from Brubaker but resulted in him not getting a film assignment until Fox signed him for Black Widow in 1986. He hadn’t directed since 1981, so half a decade was a suspended sentence. Mel Gibson said racist remarks about Jews and blacks while in a drunken stupor. The way that the blacklisting came about is interesting because he was arrested in 2006 but his latest film role up to that point in time was in 2004. He then acted in Edge of Darkness circa 2008, but it was only in 2009 that Warner Brothers considered it worthy of a release in January of 2010. It’s almost like the logic behind it is that the number of years that people have not seen him on a movie screen is a harsh punishment in of itself.
Even being Jewish can’t stop you from being blacklisted. It took 5 years for people to see Dustin Hoffman in a cinema production following 1982’s Tootsie. He confided to Gary Oldman about saying some choice words to a powerful person. Conan Lee became a big star in Hong Kong after Ninja in the Dragon’s Den became a sleeper hit. He looked at his contract and claimed that he was underpaid. He was not sympathetic as to how much money was invested in him i.e. travel fares, training, nourishment, accommodation, the budget of the film and publicity. What made matters worse was that the nurturing producer was already badly beaten by gangsters because he refused to lend him out to a studio until the sequel was filmed (they had a script and pre-production began).
What led to the contract review was that Conan was tempted by another producer who would later abandon him due to the loss of face that the injured producer had received. Deflated, Conan had no choice but to move back to the U.S. in the 1982 summer. He returned to H.K. in 1987 because a film company (Cinema City) wanted to experiment with the idea of combining a Chow Yun-Fat movie with a Jackie Chan one, which allows 1988’s Tiger on the Beat (much like Ninja in the Dragon’s Den) to be perceived as a Chansploitation movie.
It needs to be noted that Game of Death was released five years after the death of Bruce Lee. Realistically speaking, it shouldn’t have taken so long to find the best lookalike (especially given how long that it took to find a Jackie Chan lookalike for Ninja in the Dragon’s Den). The truth of the matter is that Bruce burned a lot of bridges and alienated potential allies by the time that he died in 1973, so it took five years for the dust to settle, so to speak. Coincidentally, that’s how long his second insurance policy lasted. The movie began filming in 1972 but was only completed in 1977.
In 1988, Victor Salva had been arrested due to literally gross misconduct with a minor during the making of Clownhouse (which was released in 1989). It didn’t help matters that he owned pornography of a similar nature, so he was sentenced to three years before being released after 15 months. For five whole years (i.e. the entirety of 1990 to the entirety of 1994), no-one wanted to finance a Victor Salva film. It was only because of Francis Ford Coppola (the initial supporter) that Victor got work. The reason why Chin Siu-Ho didn’t appear in anything between 2001 and 2006 is because he got into trouble with the law for using a hidden camcorder to record women’s dresses from underneath.
During the five years when he was blacklisted due to being accused of participating in communism, director Martin Ritt eked out a living by teaching at the Actors Studio in New York City. Fortunately, producer David Susskind luckily defied the blacklist by hiring Ritt to direct a film titled Edge of the City (1957). Director Jules Dassin had the same bad luck. Writer Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted for the same reason, but it took him five years before he could work up the courage to write under an alias.
Last month, the Ukraine barred Gerard Depardieu from entering the country for five years. Prior to the blackballing, the iceberg’s tip was his friendship with Vladimir Putin. To make matters worse, he refused to see Ukraine as being separate from Russia. If this had happened in the `80s, Gerard would’ve been more popular in Hollywood. Imagine an English actor getting barred from Northern Ireland for seeing it as part of Ireland. To make everything come full circle, I should point out that Gerard’s Green Card could be seen as inspired by Paper Marriage (a H.K. movie).
In 1995, Ellen Chan appeared in her last classic film (Eternal Evil of Asia). From 1996 to 2000, she was blackballed for accusing Wong Jing (one of China’s most lucrative film-makers) of using a casting couch. Allegedly, it’s because of this that Loretta Lee (a.k.a. Rachel Lee) was cast as the star of Sexy and Dangerous instead of Ellen. Jing is not one to hold grudges, so he would eventually cast her in Naked Soldier (2012). When talking about why Ellen’s career wasn’t as prosperous as it could have been, he claimed that too much of her effort was placed on romance. It’s common for H.K. actresses to retire after obtaining matrimony with a rich man.
Megan Fox is an interesting case study. She accused Michael Bay of being like Hitler, so Steven Spielberg had her fired before she could start work on the Transformers: Dark of the Moon (the third of the live-action film franchise). However, Spielberg denied that he was the one who had ordered the firing. If it’s true that Bay is lying about Spielberg then this makes Shia LaBeouf look truthful when he claimed that Megan was quite the feminist to be insulted by how she was being paraded around like a sex object. Regardless, it would be 5 years before she was seen in an A-list movie (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
In the world of H.K. TV, 5 years is like a prison sentence when barring someone. Francis Ng Chun-Yu found out the hard way as he was barred by the TVB network in 1992 and only re-emerged on there in 1997. The reason for the blacklisting was that he criticized their casting policies. He must have drank his fair share of liquid courage after he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the H.K. Film Awards (regarding his histrionic historic role in Handsome Siblings).
As for the world of U.S. TV, Howard Cosell (a sports journalist) claimed that he was blacklisted for five years starting in 1959. This wasn’t because of the second Red Scare (communist paranoia). According to him, it was because the head of ABC (Tom Moore) didn’t think that Howard had it in him to make it in the industry. Howard was supposedly too abrasive, too Jewish and too much of a New Yorker. Finally…Ben Curtis. His first claim to fame was acting in commercials, but he was blacklisted from acting for five years after being busted for buying drugs.