Neil Marshall's Hellboy reboot had been coming together surprisingly well. It assembled a star-studded cast, and many fans seemed open to a new version of the antihero, despite continued affection for Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman's iteration. But the project recently hit a major speed bump over a whitewashing controversy.
In early August, #Deadpool's Ed Skrein was cast as Major Benjamin Daimio, a man with the power to turn into a jaguar (I know, comics), who also happens to be an important member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.). There was just one problem with his casting though: In the comics, Benjamin is a Japanese-American character, and people were understandably displeased by the fact that yet another caucasian actor would take on such a role.
Ed Skrein Is Stepping Aside So An Asian Actor Can Take His Place
The backlash was quite serious around social media –– so serious, in fact, that Skrein has announced that he'll be stepping down from the Hellboy reboot. Skrein announced his departure Monday through a statement on Twitter:
In his statement, #EdSkrein explained that he was unaware of the character's ethnicity when taking on the role. After he found out, however, he decided to exit the project to allow for an accurate representation in the film. Here is the full statement:
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 voice in the Arts. I feel it is important to honor and respect that. There 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 more 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.
Shortly after Skrein's announcement, Lionsgate released a statement, supporting the actor for his decision and assuring fans that an Asian actor will now be cast to play Major Benjamin:
"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."
A Step In The Right Direction For Hollywood
This is possibly the first time that an actor has declined to take a role due to such a controversy. It may sound like an extreme measure to some, but Skrein's decision is quite commendable. Hollywood has a great problem when it comes to diversity. Just this year, there have been two cases of white actors taking over Asian roles: Scarlett Johansson as Major in #GhostInTheShell and Nat Wolff as Light in 2017's #DeathNote. So it's great to see an actor and a studio listening to people's outcries and working to fix their mistake.
Now, you may be wondering whether this will impact Hellboy's production schedule. While it's a possibility, it doesn't look like Skrein had started filming, so while the studio and director will have to act quickly to replace him, the movie's production could reasonably continue as planned. Even though it took a whole of fan criticism to get to this point, hopefully this is the first step in the right direction when it comes to diversity and representation in the entertainment industry.
Hellboy doesn't have a release date yet, but it's expected to hit theaters sometime in 2018.
How do you feel about Skrein leaving Hellboy over his casting's controversy? Let me know in the comments!
[Source: The Hollywood Reporter]