Ed Skrein quits Hellboy over 'whitewashing' controversy

  • 30/08/2017

British actor Ed Skrein has announced he will resign from the upcoming Hellboy reboot after accusations of 'whitewashing'.

The Deadpool star was announced last week as landing the role of Major Ben Daimio, a Japanese-American character in the original comic books by Mike Mignola.

Skrein's casting was met with an online backlash, with many calling the decision racist.

"Hey Hollywood, how many box office flops does it take for you to learn how to cast properly? #hellboy #whitewashedout," tweeted Asian actor Simu Liu.

Stephanie Sheh, an anime voiceover actress, said: "Here we go again. Why Hollywood do you keep forcing me to boycott your films."

On Monday, Skrein posted a statement on Instagram and Twitter about his decision to step down.

"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... Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately."

The casting of white actors as Asian characters has long been common practice in Hollywood. Here are five of the most notorious examples.

Top 5 whitewashed roles

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

Ed Skrein quits Hellboy over 'whitewashing' controversy

Johansson played the Major, a character originally depicted as Japanese, in a recent film adaptation of the cult manga series.

Her casting became the subject of intense criticism after an image of Johansson in character was released in 2015.

Asian-American actress Constance Wu called Johansson's casting an example of "the practice of blackface employed on Asians".

Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange

Ed Skrein quits Hellboy over 'whitewashing' controversy
Photo credit: Getty

Swinton was cast as the Ancient One in the 2016 film, a character who was portrayed as an elderly Tibetan man in the original Marvel comics. 

When the race-swapped casting was criticised, Swinton claimed she was cast to avoid a stereotypical representation of an Asian character. 

She said it was "very important for people to speak up for a more accurate representation and diversity" in regards to accusations of whitewashing.

Emma Stone in Aloha

Ed Skrein quits Hellboy over 'whitewashing' controversy
Photo credit: Getty

Stone played Allison Ng, a Hawaiian-Chinese character, in the 2015 romantic comedy. 

The film was panned by critics, and director Cameron Crowe eventually apologised for casting Stone.

"I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice," wrote Crowe in a blog post.

Finn Jones in Iron Fist

Ed Skrein quits Hellboy over 'whitewashing' controversy
Photo credit: Getty

While Buddhist monk and martial arts warrior Danny Rand was white in the original Marvel comics, many felt that Netflix's 2017 adaptation should have updated the series by casting an Asian actor. 

Roy Thomas, co-creator of the original Iron Fist series in 1974, said he had "little patience" for those who said the character was whitewashed.

"Don't these people have something better to do than to worry about the fact that Iron Fist isn't Oriental, or whatever word?"

Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Ed Skrein quits Hellboy over 'whitewashing' controversy
Photo credit: Getty

Possibly the most infamous example of cinematic 'yellowface', Rooney played into almost every Japanese stereotype in his depiction of Mr Yunioshi in the 1969 classic. 

With prosthetic teeth, taped-back eyelids and an over-the-top accent, the character is now regarded as an embarrassing product of a bygone era. 

The 2009 DVD re-release of the film included a bonus documentary called Mr Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective which explained why the character is now considered offensive.