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White Actor Leaves 'Hellboy' Reboot After Uproar Over His Casting As Asian Character
Controversy arose last week when it was announced that actor Ed Skrein (Deadpool, The Transporter Refueled) was cast as Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming Hellboy reboot. Daimio is Asian American in the comic book series, while Skrein is white; the casting was another tally in Hollywood's propensity for whitewashing roles that could have gone to minority actors.
On Monday, Skrein announced on Twitter that he was leaving Hellboy over the outcry. In the tweet he claimed that he was originally unaware that the character was Asian American:
The topic of whitewashing in Hollywood has been a persistent one for Asian American communities; in the last couple years, there have been outcries similar to that of the Hellboy fiasco, like when Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead in the 2017 adaptation of the Japanese manga Ghost In The Shell, and when Tilda Swinton took up the role of The Ancient One (who originates from Tibet) in the Doctor Strange flick. Netflix also faced backlash for its casting decisions on Iron Fist and Death Note. The issue has even spawned this t-shirt, which includes a rouges gallery of actors who've signed on for roles that should have gone to Asian actors. Aside from Johansson and Swinton, the shirt also references Emma Stone's turn as "Captain Allison Ng" in 2015's Aloha, and Matt Damon's White Savior role in 2016's The Great Wall.
When Skrein's casting was announced, the popular blog Angry Asian Man skewered the decision, offering a point-by-point takedown as to why the situation was beyond ludicrous. The blog noted that Skrein did a "perfectly fine" job in Deadpool, but offered nothing that warranted his casting in Hellboy:
That's called whitewashing, kids.
We've heard it all before. Stop. You can't tell me this guy is the box office draw. He is not. Nobody, except Ed Skrein's mom, is going to see Hellboy because they saw Ed Skrein's name in the billing block.
Don't tell me that you couldn't find Asian American actors for this role (if you bothered at all). Off the top of my head, I can name at least a dozen guys -- actors with substantial credits -- who could kick ass as Ben Daimio.
The blog noted that Christa Campbell, an executive producer on the project, had taken to Twitter to justify the casting. "Someone comes and does a great audition to get the role," Campbell said in a tweet that's since been deleted. ""Stop projecting onto us. We are all one. We don't see colors or race."
"Yes, what you don't see is precisely the problem," the blog responded.
Some on Twitter praised Skrein's decision, saying they hope it will set a precedent:
As reported at The Hollywood Reporter, producers and Lionsgate have released a joint statement saying that they'll be re-casting the role of Daimio: "Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision. It was not our intent to be insensitive to issues of authenticity and ethnicity, and we will look to recast the part with an actor more consistent with the character in the source material."
We assume "actor more consistent with the character in the source material" means someone of Asian background. We'll believe it when we see it.