This weekend Warner Brothers released Pan, an origin story of sorts for the classic Peter Pan fairy-tale. Based on Disney's recent success with live action fairy-tales this seemed like a wonderful move from Warner Bros. But as the trailers unrolled, revealing wondrous visuals and light-hearted family fare, one glaringly obvious miscast became apparent: Tiger Lilly was white. People took to their keyboards to express their outrage over the casting choice but Warner Bros attempted to defend their decision by stating Rooney Mara was simply the best actress for the role and that they were implementing color-blind casting. Well the opening weekend box office numbers are in and clearly movie-goers didn't buy WB's explanation.
Pan came in with just over $15 million for it's opening weekend. That is a disastrous opening for a film that cost $155 to make before marketing costs. While worldwide totals may save the day in the end, this is a John Carter level flop. Now there are other factors including a release date change that certainly effected the box office but Mara's mis-cast certainly didn't help.
Pan is simply the latest in a line of several films over the past few years to infamously white-wash title roles in major motion pictures. The Lone Ranger re-make from Disney lead the way for Pan by trying to justify Johnny Depp's casting as Tonto through his minimal traces of Native American blood. Audiences refused to support that film as well to the tune of $89 million domestic/$260 million worldwideon a $215 million budget.
Last year Ridley Scott released his biblical epic Exodus without casting any actors of color in speaking roles. While past film's based on Moses have equally ignored the Egyptian backdrop to the story, they also weren't created in 2014. Past films can be forgiven due to the complicated racial situation of the country but really today there is no excuse. Audiences generally rejected the film to the tune of $65 million domestic/$268 worldwide on a $140 budget.
In 2015, Pan is the third example of highly publicized white-washing. This May, Cameron Crowe released Aloha with an opening weekend of less than $10. The major offense in this army romance/drama? Emma Stone trying to pass off as a native Hawaiian. Well critics panned the film and audiences overall ignored it as Aloha closed with $21 mil domestic/$25 mil worldwide on a $37 million budget.
Recently the gay rights film Stonewall opened to next to no financial gain. The only news-worthy headlines the film was able to garner was the fact that the film-makers did white-wash the historic stonewall riots. To date the film has yet to even crack $185,000. Just because you are telling a story that gives representation to one minority group, it's not enough when you side-line the races/backgrounds of the actual people that were involved.
None of these films were well-received from critics and many had a number of issues outside of their in-sensitive casting that aided in their box-office detriment. But this fall has shown that audiences are hungry for diversity in their film. Films with black leads topped the box-office for 5 weeks straight through August and September with Straight Outta Compton, War Room and The Perfect Guy. Those three movies also covered very different genres and identified themselves outside of being "black cinema". Mexican films have also found a smaller but strong audience this year as well with films like Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos.
There are countless aspiring actors searching for their big-break that come from every walk of life. When the script or story asks for a Native American princess or Egyptian princes, or better yet the history books discuss minority civil rights leaders; give us the accurate portrayal of those characters. It's not enough to have faceless, voiceless background figures of the correct nationality. Stop the trend of white-washing, audiences are demanding it.
All figures in this piece were taken from Box Office Mojo.