Ed Skrein, who was to star in “Hellboy” (2018), backed out after claims from fans that the film was whitewashing a character who was Japanese American in the comics.
Skrein posted a statement on Twitter Monday stating that he accepted the role without knowing the character’s ethnic background. But after listening to the outcry from the community, he “must do what he feels is right” and step down from the role.
The “Game of Thrones” actor was slated to play Major Ben Daimio, a Japanese-American U.S. marine in the “Hellboy” comics.
After Skrein was cast, several Asian-American fans of the “Hellboy” series were upset that the role was being portrayed by a white actor.
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“It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people,” he said in his statement. “Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.”
The film, a reboot of Guillermo del Toro’s “Hellboy” franchise, is slated to premiere in 2018 directed by Neil Marshall and starring David Harbour, Ian McShane and Milla Jovovich.
Skrein, who played Ajax in “Deadpool,” said that casting correctly is important to him especially because he has a “mixed heritage family.”
The producers of the film, Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin also released a statement supporting Skrein’s decision to leave. “Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision,” they said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter.
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“It was not our intent,” Gordon and Levin continued, “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.”
It is unclear who Marshall will cast as Skrein’s replacement, but the film begins shooting in October.
Several characters of Asian descent have been cast as white in recent years and were met with equal fervor. Emma Stone portrayed Chinese character Allison Ng in 2015’s “Aloha,” Scarlett Johannson starred in a remake of Japanese anime “Ghost in the Shell” and Tilda Swinton portrayed The Ancient One, a Tibetan monk, in Marvel’s “Doctor Strange.” Just this past weekend, Netflix remade Japanese anime “Death Note,” with white actor Nat Wolff.
“It is our responsibility,” Skrein said, “to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity.”
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