Photo by Jon Premosch
More so than ever over the past year, Hollywood has been criticized for casting white actors as characters who were originally Asian in the source material. Most notably, Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead role of the Ghost in the Shell live film adaptation and Tilda Swinton played the Ancient One in Doctor Strange. Public opinion didn’t make a difference in either case, but Ed Skrein has proven to be the exception by leaving his role in the upcoming Hellboy reboot.
Last week, Skrein was cast as Major Ben Daimio, a Japanese-American character who consults with and eventually becomes a full-time employee of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. After mounting outcry about yet another whitewashed Asian casting, Skrein announced he was exiting the project on Monday.
“I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage,” Skrein explained via Twitter. “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,” the Deadpool actor added. “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.”
Lionsgate followed up with a statement in support of Skrein’s decision: “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.”
Read Skrein’s full statement below.
As previously announced, Stranger Things star David Harbour will play the titular character in the Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, while director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Game of Thrones) has been tapped to helm the project. The script was written by Andrew Cosby, Christopher Golden, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. Ian McShane (Deadwood, Game of Thrones) will portray Hellboy’s adoptive father, while Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) is playing the titular medieval sorceress, who wants to destroy humanity.