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Heston Resigns From Actors Equity Over ‘Miss Saigon’ Flap

August 15, 1990

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Charlton Heston said he is resigning as a full member of Actors Equity over the union’s refusal to allow a white actor to play a Eurasian character in the New York production of ″Miss Saigon.″

The Oscar-winning actor called the decision against British actor Jonathan Pryce ″obscenely racist.″ He said he was deeply ashamed of the first union he joined and would quit immediately.

The stage actors’ union decided last week that Pryce would not be allowed to play the role of the Engineer, a Eurasian confidence man and pimp, when ″Miss Saigon″ moves from London to Broadway next March.

The show’s producer then said he would cancel the U.S. run rather than use another actor. Actors Equity plans to reconsider its decision on Thursday.

Heston, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, said in a letter to Actors Equity that if the union had used the same logic as it did for ″Miss Saigon,″ Laurence Olivier would have been prevented from playing Othello, considered one of Olivier’s greatest performances.

″As actor and director, I thought the idea was to get the best actor for the part, no matter what color, or religion, or politics,″ said the star of ″Ben-Hur″ and ″The Ten Commandments.″

″This is blatantly racist preference and the Equity board should blush for it,″ he said.

Heston said he would claim ″financial core″ status in the guild, meaning he can no longer vote or hold office but retains health and welfare benefits for reduced dues.

Heston is now appearing on stage in ″Love Letters″ in Beverly Hills.

A call seeking comment on Heston’s action from Actors Equity in New York was not answered Tuesday afternoon.

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