Ed Skrein Leaves ‘Hellboy’ Reboot, Solves Hollywood’s Whitewashing Problem with a Single Tweet

Ed Skrein

British actor Ed Skrein (Deadpool, Ajax) made waves on social media this past Tuesday, by announcing he was dropping out of Neil Marshall’s Hellboy reboot after learning the character he was slated to play, Major Ben Daimio, was of Asian descent in the original comics.

Skrein’s move has put Hellboy‘s producers in a tight spot. While he didn’t mention the word “whitewashing,” it’s hard to imagine they will be able to cast anyone but an Asia actor as Daimio now — a fact alluded to by the producers who released a statement later the same day.

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.

That’s great, but it is worth noting that they only made this decision after casting the lily-white Skrein, and then after Skrein publicly shamed them for doing so.

Comic-book movies have gotten it wrong more than they have gotten it right over the past decade, consistently casting white actors to play Asian characters. And some big name actors have gone along with the trend, including Tilda Swinton, playing the Tibetan Ancient One in Dr. Strange, Ben Kingsley playing the Chinese Mandarin in Iron Man 3 and Scarlett Johansson playing the Japanese Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell.

Ben Daimio

There was a public backlash in each of those cases, but the filmmakers and actors involved had rationales and excuses every time, and with the possible exception of Ghost in the Shell, the controversy didn’t appear to affect the bottom line.

But with a single post, Skrein changed the calculus on whitewashing characters in the future. Instead of asking them to defend or explain their casting, the question every actor handed such a role in will be asked is now: “Why didn’t you just quit?”

Skrein is hardly a household name. Passing up the opportunity to pad his resume with a surefire hit must have been difficult for him. His next job is not guaranteed and there was a possibility that he would be branded as “difficult,” making work harder to come by in the future.

What excuse does someone like Johannson, one of the highest-paid actors in the world, have?


Full Text of the Statements from Ed Skrein and the Producers of Hellboy

Ed Skrein

Last week it was announced that I would be playing Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming HELLBOY reboot. I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage. There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement, and I must do what I feel is right.

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. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.

Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity. It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality.

I am sad to leave Hellboy but if this decision brings us closer to that day, it is worth it. I hope it makes a difference.

With love and hope,

Ed Skrein

Larry Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Lionsgate & Millennium

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.

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John Marcotte

John Marcotte

Secret identity of a father raising two super-heroic young girls

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