The Human Stain

From Dec ’05 Spotlight: Wentworth Miller, who plays “Michael Scofield” on Fox Channel’s Prison Break, is the brightest light of the TV season and TV Guide recently named him “Fall’s Sexiest New Star.” So the buzz has finally caught up with something serious film fans have known for two years now: this guy is hot!

SilkFamilyPhotoMiller made his movie debut in Robert Benton’s 2003 adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Human Stain playing “Coleman Silk,” a young African-American man who decides to pass as white. Unfortunately, most critics who saw Stain were so angry at Benton for casting Anthony Hopkins as the elderly Silk that they missed two important points about the character: not only is Coleman light-skinned enough to pass, but he lives his entire adult life as an Ashkenazi Jew.

While I’m not a Philip Roth scholar, I have read most of his books and The Human Stain is by far the most successful of the three adaptations attempted to date. Admittedly, that’s not saying much since the film versions of Goodbye, Columbus (1969) and Portnoy’s Complaint (1972) have both aged badly and are almost unwatchable now. But if you come to The Human Stain as “a Wentworth Miller movie” rather than “an Anthony Hopkins movie,” I guarantee you’ll be impressed.

A “culture column” in a Chicago-based Jewish newspaper could have no better closure for the year than a few words from Philip Roth, reflecting here on Coleman Silk’s life, at the end of The Human Stain:

“So much yearning, so much plotting and passion and subtlety and dissembling, all of it feeding the hunger to leave the house and be transformed. To become a new being. To bifurcate. The drama that underlies America’s story, the high drama that is upping and leaving—and the energy and cruelty that rapturous drive demands.”

Happy Chanukah!


Photo clockwise from top left: Wentworth Miller, Harry Lennix, Danny Blanco-Hall, Anna Deavere Smith, & Marie Michel.

Photo Credit: Abbot Genser/Miramax

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