On the shortlist of would-be Sorry to Bother You leading men: Jordan Peele and Donald Glover, according to director Boots Riley. Speaking to Doreen St. Félix at the Directors Guild theater Saturday night, Riley revealed who almost starred in his zany, anti-capitalist fever dream. “The first person of note that was helping us get financing, who said they wanted to play the lead was actually Jordan Peele. Then he directed Get Out and was like, ’I don’t want to act anymore,’ ” Riley said. “The next person was Donald Glover, and he said, ‘But I might get this job in Star Wars, and maybe you can wait until after that and after Atlanta season two. I was like, ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen to the money by then.’ ”
The role of Cassius Greene, a telemarketer who is promoted up through his company when he uses his “white voice” (dubbed by a white person, David Cross) was a hard one to fill. It required a leading man committed to the raucous oddity of a script laced with symbolism and innuendo. “If you are to imagine a certain actor playing a role, probably there’s a very narrow breadth, even with great actors,” Riley said. Casting the Cassius character had him stumped.
But after Glover and Riley hung up, the director’s phone rang again, Riley said: “Ten minutes after he hung up the phone, Lakeith’s manager called me, saying, ‘You need to meet with Lakeith.’ ” And the rest is white-voice history.