Ed Skrein Steps Away From ‘Hellboy’ Reboot In Name of Diversity

Hollywood is, in 2017, still fairly averse to casting Asians in blockbuster films. I don’t believe that having an Asian lead in a film would actually hurt its box office performance. For example, The Big Sick, led by Kumail Nanjiani, pulled in $45 million on a $5 budget, which is pretty good for an indie rom-com about a coma patient.

It’s even more baffling to me when Hollywood casts a white actor to play a supporting actor who was Asian in the source material for no reason. Such was the case when Ed Skrein was cast to play Ben Daimio in the upcoming Hellboy reboot. In the comics, Daimio’s Japanese-American heritage plays a fairly important role in his backstory, so it’s not something that can be changed without changing the core of the character. When Ed Skrein found this out, he posted a message on Twitter saying he was going to step aside.

And I say good on him. Not only is his decision upholding the integrity of the source material, it’s helping to provide opportunities for talented Asian-American actors who would otherwise be overlooked by The Hollywood machinery. Of course, this being Hollywood they’re probably just going to cast another white guy.

Usually I think these cries of whitewashing are a bit overblown. For example, in Dragon Ball: Evolution, Goku is an alien from the planet Vegita who exists in a fantasy world. There’s nothing inherently Chinese about Goku, even though Dragon Ball was based on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. Likewise Death Note, which adapted a comic originally set in Japan but took place in Seattle. It’s also important to note that both of these movies were terrible, so in the long run it’s probably better for Asian actors that they had white leads.

Major Daimio in Hellboy is a bit different. For starters, his name is Daimio, which is clearly Japanese. As I mentioned earlier, his Japanese heritage does inform his character. I just don’t know what the casting director was thinking. It’s not like the name Ed Skrein is going to pack people into the theater, the guy was in three episodes of Game of Thrones before he got recast and he played the bad guy in Deadpool. That’s essentially his entire resume. There are Asian-American actors way more famous than Ed Skrein.

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