'Hellboy' Reboot Actor Leaves the Movie Amid 'Whitewash' Controversy

The act of “whitewashing” isn’t new in Hollywood, it’s been there since the industry began. From the controversial blackface in D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” to a very white Natalie Wood playing the Puerto Rican Maria in “West Side Story.” My two infamous examples of whitewashing would be the casting of legendary Hollywood actor Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunoshi in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Rooney wore makeup and a prosthetic mouthpiece in his blatantly racist portrayal of Audrey Hepburn‘s arrogant and bitter Japanese neighbor. It has been rumored that Bruce Lee was so offended by the role that he walked out, not even midway through the film at a screening.
Another “hall-of-famer” in the whitewashing department would probably be Peter Sellers’ incredibly silly portrayal of Hrundi Bakshi in Blake Edwards‘ “The Party.” Whitewashing is still a big problem today in Hollywood as evinced by the recent backlash of Scarlett Johansson‘s casting in her supposed-to-be Japanese “Ghost in the Shell” leading role.
Deadpool” actor Ed Skrein surely took note of all these cases. The 34-year-old actor was cast last week in the upcoming “Hellboy” reboot. Skrein was going to play Major Ben Daimio, a character that is of mixed Asian heritage in the comic books. Controversy arose and today, in a stunning turn of events, Skrein has decided to leave the project altogether.
In a statement released on Twitter, Skrein acknowledges the “intense conversation and understandable upset” that happened over his casting, adding that he was “unaware” Daimio, was Asian originally. Concluding that he is leaving because it is “what I feel is right.”
This is a major decision by the actor, one that could start a chain reaction in the industry. Skrein must be commended for his effort. He just left a major role in a major Hollywood production for the greater good. The lack of available Asian roles in the industry is no hidden secret and to cast a white actor in a role that should be given to an Asian-American seems wholly unfair and only aggravating the problem. We hope Lionsgate now does the right thing and casts the right person to play Daimion.