Hollywood just can't escape the whitewash controversy that has plagued many productions over the last couple of years. The latest movie to fall prey to this type of casting is the upcoming Hellboy Reboot. Deadpool star Ed Skrein has been cast as a character who is traditionally Japanese-American in the comics. And fans aren't having it. Nether is the media, who love to perpetuate these controversies.
Once titled Rise of the Blood Queen, the new Hellboy is going to introduce characters that were not in either of Guillermo Del Toro's big screen adaptations. And that includes Ben Daimio. In Mike Mignola's comic, the character's heritage has a heavy influence on his own personal story set against this fantastical backdrop. Casting a British actor in the role has set off a firestorm amongst the Asian American community, who are on high alert after Scarlett Johansson took the lead in what turned out to be one of this year's biggest bombs, Ghost in the Shell.
When the news was first announced that Skrein had taken the role, the actor jumped on his social media accounts to express his excitement. And the backlash started almost immediately. Ben Daimio had a grandmother who was a Japanese Imperial assassin in World War II. If portraying the role accurately, Skrein just doesn't look the part. And the actor was bombarded with comments in his personal comment feed. One individual stung hard with these words.
"You're a talented actor; why would you take away a role from an Asian colleague?"
Asian actor Simu Liu, known for roles in Taken and Kim's Convenience, dropped in to ask the following question.
"Hey Hollywood, how many box office flops does it take for you to learn how to cast properly? #hellboy #whitewashedout"
Another actor, Stephanie Sheh, who often does voice work for anime, had this to say.
"Here we go again. Why Hollywood do you keep forcing me to boycott your films. #whitewash #hellboy."
As the backlash continued, comic book creator Mignola came to Ed Skrein's defense. He had this to say, ignoring the comments.
"Thanks and happy you've signed on."
Deadline reached out to Lionsgate for comment. They will be distributing the movie when it gets released in the States next year. They are refusing to comment at this time. And it doesn't appear that Skrein is in any danger of losing his job just yet. Nothing has been said about why this casting decision was made, with such fires surrounding a lot of recent releases.
The most recently accused of whitewashing is this weekend's Netflix original movie release Death Note. Fans were upset that the Japanese manga got turned into a whites-only cast. Even though the team behind the movie have stated that it's a small town America reboot, not a traditional adaptation of the material. The original portrayed main character Light Yagami as a Japanese teen. Now he is played by white actor Nat Wolff. His love interest, also originally Japanese, is now being played by caucasian actress Margaret Qualley.
But the storm wasn't quiet before Death Note. In fact it was raging quite loudly. Emma Stone came under fire for playing the Asian character Allison Ng in Cameron Crowe's Aloha. In the movie she is revealed to be one-quarter Hawaiian with a half-Asian father. Tilda Swinton, who thought she was doing females proud by taking on a role traditionally portrayed by a man, couldn't escape the white wash controversy when she took on the role of the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, another character typically portrayed as Asian in the Marvel comics.
The Asian community was perhaps most outspoken about Scarlett Johansson starring as Major in the live-action Ghost in the Shell. Especially when, at the end of the movie, Major is shown to be the soul of a Japanese woman who has been put into the body of a white woman. Matt Damon also didn't escape controversy for starring in The Great Wall. Though it was an original movie, no one understood why China needed Matt Damon to save it from monsters when the Chinese warriors surrounding him seemed capable enough.
At this stage, it is unclear how the Hellboy team will ultimately respond to Ed Skrein's casting, if they'll keep him on, as shooting hasn't begun yet, or what excuse they will give for not staying true to the character's strong Japanese roots.