Ed Skrein said he was unaware of the character’s original cultural heritage. (Reuters: Phil McCarten)
British actor Ed Skrein has withdrawn from the upcoming Hellboy reboot a week after his casting sparked outcries of whitewashing.
- Ed Skrein says he accepted the role of Ben Daimio unaware of its heritage
- Producers of the film said they supported Skrein’s “unselfish decision”
- The issue of diversity in Western cinema has flared up on several occasions over the past several years
In a lengthy post on his social media Skrein said he accepted the role of Ben Daimio unaware of its Asian heritage.
The character Skrein was to play, Ben Daimio, is Japanese-American in the Hellboy comics the films are based on.
Critics said Skrein’s casting was just the latest instance of an Asian or Asian-American role being handed to a white actor.
“It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the arts,” Skrein said.
“I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.”
Producers of Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen said they fully supported Skrein’s “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,” said Larry Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Lionsgate and Millennium Films in a joint statement.
The statement came after executive producer Christa Campbell attempted to defend the film’s casting choice.
“Someone comes and does a great audition to get the role. Stop projecting your own shit onto us. We are all one. We don’t see colours of race,” Campbell said on Twitter in a since deleted post.
American actor Ron Perlman of Son’s of Anarchy fame previously played the lead character in the 2004 film Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Racial casting controversies plague Hollywood
The issue of diversity in Western cinema has flared up on many occasions over the past several years.
In 2015, actress Emma Stone was cast as a half-Hawaiian, half-Chinese Air Force pilot in Cameron Crowe’s Aloha.
In 2016, actress Zoe Saldana came under fire from the African-American community for accepting the role of Nina Simone for being “too light skinned” to portray the legendary singer in biopic, Nina.
A Change.org petition to “replace Zoe Saldana with an actress who actually looks like Nina Simone” gained tens of thousands of signatures.
In the same year, Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith spearheaded a campaign to boycott the Academy Awards due to a lack of diversity among the nominees.
For the second time in as many years The Academy nominated five Caucasian actors in every acting category which prompted the trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
And as recently as last year, Scarlett Johansson was criticised for her role as the cyborg protagonist in the Japanese anime remake Ghost in the Shell.
Last week’s Netflix release, the Japanese manga adaptation Death Note also drew criticism for transferring a Japanese story to Seattle without any Asian actors.