Actor Michael Peña says US media ‘sells fear’ by overplaying police brutality
Actor Michael Peña has suggested that the highly publicised cases of police brutality that sparked the #blacklivesmatter movement have been overplayed by the media.
Peña, who stars alongside Alexander Skarsgård in John Michael McDonagh’s War on Everyone, a comedy about two New Mexico cops who brutalise informants, snort drugs and drink on the job, compared the coverage of police shootings to the American media’s hype over the Ebola crisis.
“The news sells because it sells fear,” he said at a press conference at the Berlin film festival where the film premieres. “What was it last time? Ebola or something like that? And there were five people in the entire United States who had Ebola. But it sells newspapers. I think the percentage is something like 0.01% of police brutality that actually happens.”
War on Everyone, McDonagh’s third film as writer-director, plays off the buddy movie format to present what Peña called “a bad cop, bad cop” film. It’s lead duo are shown taking cocaine, beating up suspects in custody and stealing money from crime scenes. Peña, whose brother is a police officer, emphasised that the film was not showing policing in the real world, where law enforcement officers should be held to the same standards as everyone else.
“There’s a bigger percentage of good cops than bad cops,” he said. “But the bad cops should be penalised like regular people.”
Peña, who is of Mexican descent, also suggested that the diversity row that has come to define this year’s Oscar race, is a “champagne problem” for wealthy Hollywood stars and that key Latin talent had been forgotten in the #oscarssowhite furore.
“The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu , his writers – they’re all Mexican. So where are they in the diversity conversation?” he asked.
Both Peña and Skarsgård agreed that there was a systemic problem behind the paucity of stories from non-white film-makers that make it to the screen. “You could also say the voting body – any voting body – just sucks,” Peña said.
When asked where Brendan Gleeson – the star of McDonagh’s previous films The Guard and Calvary – was, the pair joked that he had been in the film, playing the duo’s black American Muslim informant Reggie X. “He’s that good an actor,” said Skarsgård.