Cancel culture should not mean art by offensive people is ‘burned’, says Hugh Bonneville

Hugh Bonneville as Roald Dahl

Hugh Bonneville as Roald Dahl

Cancel culture should not mean that work by offensive people is ‘burned’, Hugh Bonneville has said ahead of his performance as Roald Dahl.

The Downton Abbey actor urged caution over the trend of publicly denouncing celebrities as he believes there is a way of ‘balancing’ how we regard their work without condoning their offensive views or actions.

Bonneville also expressed his confusion over how imaginative people can be while producing films and art without offending people, asking ‘what dark corners are we allowed to explore and not explore?’

The 57 year old stars as Roald Dahl in his latest role for movie To Olivia – and said though he ‘decries’ the anti-Semitic views the author held, he did not carry that into his portrayal as it ‘was not relevant’.

He shared his views on cancel culture while appearing on BBC podcast Loose Ends, having been asked about how some people are ‘troubled’ by Dahl’s Oompa Loompa characters and the racist connotations they might have.

Bonneville accepted that ‘these things are picked over these days’.

“So where do we go with our imaginations? What dark corners are we allowed to explore and not explore?”, Bonneville said.

“I think there is a pendulum swinging at the moment to do with cancel culture – that all the films of Harvey Weinstein should be burned or something.

British novelist Roald Dahl 

British novelist Roald Dahl

“But actually, the art that he produced was memorable in our contemporary culture.

“So I think there is a discussion to be had certainly, and one that must hold these things in balance without condoning in any way the [offensive] views.”

Asked if Dahl’s anti-Semitic views interfered in his portrayal of the writer, Bonneville explained that he struck a ‘balance’.

He said: “You have to hold in balance the work someone creates and the personality.

“You despise the views of the person but the work that they produce maybe of the highest form of art or at least popular form of art.

“One decries, of course, the views that he [Dahl] expressed and the family have latterly marked out their disapproval as well, but you can’t carry that into a performance because it isn’t relevant to this particular performance.

“The article in question in which he wrote those views were decades later I believe.

“It wasn’t indeed a chapter of his life that I knew about until it came up last year if I’m really honest.”

In December last year Dahl’s family issued an apology for the late storyteller’s offensive comments about Jewish people.

Hollywood mogul Weinstein, 68, was revealed as a sex predator as a result of the Me Too movement, having produced some of the film industry’s biggest blockbusters during his career.

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