Is Hollywood 'whitewashing' Asian roles?
A live-action movie of the beloved Japanese manga and movie "Akira" could feature white American actors.
January 13th, 2012
01:39 PM ET

Is Hollywood 'whitewashing' Asian roles?

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) - America’s embrace of Japanese pop culture, particularly manga and anime, hasn’t resulted in an embrace of Asian and Asian-American actors when those storylines go to Hollywood.

Two upcoming feature films based on Japanese material are already stirring controversy after rumors that white American actors will be cast as characters originally written as Japanese.

Tom Cruise is rumored to be in talks to play the lead role in the Warner Bros. adaptation of Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill,” replacing a Japanese main character. Warner Bros., which is owned by the same parent company as CNN, is also in the pre-production stages of making a live-action version of “Akira,” a graphic novel that was made into a landmark 1988 animated feature film in Japan. All of the actors rumored to be in consideration for the upcoming film’s main characters are white Americans, although casting calls invited actors of “any race” to audition.

That’s troubling to both the series’ devoted fans and advocates of diversity in casting.

Kent A. Ono, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the practice of casting white actors to play Asians and Asian-American characters has a long history in Hollywood. Until recent decades, this mostly took the form of white actors playing stereotypical representations of Asian characters, such as Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of I.Y. Yunioshi in 1961's “Breakfast at Tiffany’s," Rita Moreno as Tuptim and Yul Brynner as King Mongkut in the 1956 film "The King and I," and Katharine Hepburn as Jade Tan in 1944's "Dragon Seed."

In recent years, Ono said, Asian characters have been replaced with white American versions played by big-name Hollywood stars. It happened with films like the 1960 western, "The Magnificent Seven," which starred Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, and was based on the influential 1954 Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa, "Seven Samurai." As Japanese manga and anime have grown more popular, it has happened in films like "Dragonball: Evolution" and "Speed Racer."

“Animation and anime are these interesting contexts, because casting directors, producers and directors can say, ‘Well, the anime character is fictional and not a real live body … and to cast them as another race is OK,’” Ono said.

The result is fewer opportunities for Asian and Asian-American actors who want a shot at a powerful role.

“Not only do Asian-American actors find this a displacement of their ability to work as laborers, as performers in these sort of roles – they also find this an affront to their identity, to their work to overcome racism and be seen as legitimate actors,” Ono said.

Racebending.com, an international grassroots organization founded in 2009, protests what it sees as the “whitewashing” of film roles and pushes for the fair representation of minorities in media. Spokesman Michael Le said that the increasing popularity of manga and anime titles means that movie producers are keen to cash in, but many don't see value in keeping the original Asian characters that made them popular.

“I remember 10 years ago, I could walk into [the comics aisle of] a Barnes and Noble and it would be all western comics, all DC and Marvel. Now I walk in and the Asian section is bigger than the western comics section,” Le said. “Asian culture is enormously popular and acceptable, but the people are not. The people are inconveniently the wrong race, and so whitewashing is a result.”

Le and other fans want the studios to avoid the debacle associated with the 2010 live-action film “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” The M. Night Shamalyan production tanked with critics and fans after being dogged by controversy surrounding its casting. The "Avatar" animated television series, on which the movie was based, takes place in a fantasy world populated by four Asian- and Inuit-based cultures. But the actors for each of the lead roles were white, except one - the villain, played by “Slumdog Millionaire” star Dev Patel. Racebending.com was formed to protest the production’s decision to “racebend” the characters – wordplay that alludes to the element “benders” from the "Avatar" series.

The Warner Bros.' planned live-action adaptation of “Akira” has fans watching closely. According to articles in The Hollywood Reporter and sci-fi blog i09.com, Garret Hedlund was being tapped to play the lead role of Shotaro Kaneda, with Kristen Stewart, Helena Bonham Carter and Ken Watanabe in talks to play other main roles. Except for Watanabe, who is Japanese, all are white.

An unnamed studio insider told the Hollywood Reporter for a January 5 story that preproduction had stopped due to issues related to script, budget and casting. Warner Bros. spokeswoman Jessica Zacholl said the studio had no comment regarding the holdup in production for “Akira” or any rumored casting decisions.

The original Japanese anime version of "Akira," made in 1988, is considered a pinnacle of Japanese animated film. The story revolves around a catastrophic explosion that destroys the city of Tokyo - an explosion which is first implied to be nuclear in origin, a reminder of fears about atomic destruction in Japan since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Fans of the manga and original movie question whether the nuances of a plot so deeply intertwined with Japanese history can survive a setting change to Manhattan.

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Jerry Beck is an animation historian and co-founder of Streamline Pictures, which brought the first screenings of the 1988 production to America. He said studios are underestimating their target market’s attachment to and understanding of Japanese connections to "Akira."

“It’s not just the story of what goes on there, but the story of culture,” Beck said. “I wish them luck, but it sort of cheapens the material. In a way it’s a universal story, but it’s also a very Asian or Japanese story.”

Joe Peacock, a writer and web designer who owns the worlds’ largest private collection of animation cels from the original “Akira” film, said shift anime characters into white characters “is annoying to the point of disrespect.” In disrespecting the source material, he said, the studios are alienating the fan base which could make the movie a success – including Peacock, whose devotion to the movie includes an award-winning "Akira" tattoo that covers his left arm.

“When your billboards are saying bad things about the project, you’ve done something wrong – and that’s all fans really are, is billboards or megaphones for the project,” Peacock said.

Fans are watching what happens with “All You Need is Kill,” too. The original novel focuses on the "Groundhog Day"-like travails of Keiji Kijira, a Japanese soldier in an international army fighting a war against aliens. The character dies, but always awakens to find it's the day before his death. He relives that day until he has amassed the skills and experience to prevent his own death.

In the movie version to be produced by Warner Bros., the character has a new identity – American Billy Cage – and the movie has a new title: “We Mortals Are.” Three of the four actors rumored to be under consideration for the role are white, with Tom Cruise as the speculative front-runner. Also rumored to be in talks were Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Keanu Reeves.

Zacholl said Warner Bros. had no comment about the castings and would not confirm or deny rumors of any decisions related to them.

But in a November 2010 interview with Comingsoon.net, director Doug Liman said the lead actors would be “totally American” instead of Japanese.

But a Racebending.com’s statement on the film points out that even in an American film, a “totally American” cast shouldn't necessarily be entirely white.

“Certainly changes will be made to the story in adaptations, such as setting a story in the United States instead of Japan," Racebending.com states. "What disappoints us is that when these adaptations are reset to America, they do not reflect the diversity of  the United States. Many people are of Asian descent but are also ‘totally American.’”

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Filed under: Asian in America • Discrimination • Ethnicity • How we look • Pop culture • Race • Who we are
soundoff (1,230 Responses)
  1. George

    Eventually Hollywood portray Obama as white!

    October 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • E

      SNL already had a white guy in blackface playing the President.

      October 23, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. superman1932

    Thank the Anime Gods the Akira project is dead.

    August 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh?

      Hopefully, it stays that way.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Seri

    @baeman, for your information, Chinese Americans have been in California for ~5 generations, as long as most of the Europeans. They are as American as you are, probably more so.

    June 18, 2012 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. Hawaii Snoopy

    We live on earth no matter where you are from, and we all are humans. So to sit here and type who's better and being evil to each other is not going to make you money or help anyone! The World is for everyone. GOD

    May 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. The Truth

    Hahaha! The most ignorant thing I've ever heard! "Go back to your country!"
    Oh please, this country was founded by immigrants and that's how its gonna stay. BTW, this isn't "White Man's Land", there were natives here long before Christopher Columbus or any European for that matter. In fact, its been proven that the Chinese arrived here in America long before any European ever even laid their eyes upon it... I'm talking about North & South America, the entire Western Hemisphere! So next time, before making an asinine comment like that, which does nothing but make yourself look like an ass, think first and educate yourself about the history of the U.S. and spare us the time of refuting your idiotic, senseless comments...

    March 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • larry

      "this country was founded by immigrants"

      now THAT is the most ignorant thing ive ever heard...

      April 2, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
      • jbro18

        how is that ignorant? The nation of the United States of America, was not founded by the native peoples who lived here when the European explorers arrived. And the first Europeans to land in any part that is now the US were religious refugees. In any case, the people who founded any of the political territories of these 2 continents called America, were from somewhere else...therefore, they were immigrants...

        December 6, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. The Truth

    People don't seem to understand just how unfairly wrong this is. How would you like it if Martin Luther King was portrayed by a Caucasian actor, or Rosa Parks by a Caucasian actress? Gandhi being played by a Chinese actor? How about we go ahead and make a film about Abraham Lincoln played by a Black actor, or have Tom Cruise play Malcolm X? Hmmm? I wonder how that'll play out.

    March 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • jbro18

      Are you forgetting the fact that all the people you named are real historical figures who actually existed in real life? Comparing them to fictional anime characters from cartoons and comic books doesn't exactly work.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's cool to cast white actors to play the roles of Asian cartoon characters in the live-action adaptations, but its not quite the same as what you're describing above.

      December 6, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
      • jbro18

        BTW, Asian-American actors can consider themselves lucky for having missed these roles, because, so far, live-action adaptions of anime/manga have all been terrible. They would have done themselves a disservice to have accepted these roles.

        While its not fair that Asian actors are only being cast as ridiculously choreographed, action-flick kung fu masters (doing things that would be impossible in moment had they not practiced the choreography for months), they shouldn't settle for crappy live-action adaptaions of cartoons either. Go for real, orginal roles in real, original movies.

        I have to believe that somewhere out there, someone still knows how to write a screen play from scratch, with their own original characters and plots...

        December 6, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
      • Tdawg

        Ok then, how about having a black superman, or chinese Wolverine, Indian spiderman ...

        March 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Huh?

    There are Asian-Americans that were BORN and RAISED in America, idiot. Take your white robes and the Hitler mustache and shove it where the sun doesn't shine. 😀

    March 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • What?

      LOL!!!! Very nice!!!!

      March 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ron

    yeah orientals should have more parts in movies

    March 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh?

      It's Asians, NOT "orientals." But thanks for the support.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. IStillDream

    Just a correction to the article– Yul Brynner was a quarter mongolian and a quarter Romani (Gypsy), so it really isn't accurate to describe him as white.

    March 3, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh?

      Being as that is, it doesn't erase the "white-washing" that happens in Hollywood movies.

      March 4, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Mr. Brynner's Asian Ancestry comes from his mother, who was part Buryat. They are Mongol peoples who are the natives of Siberia.

      So, yeah, Yul Brynner was at least part Asian, and on that, he certainly doesn't deserve to be lumped into the category of "white actors in yellow-face."

      July 4, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. nick

    why cant everyone just accept the fact that asians are boring? thats why hollywood doesnt cast them. atleast blacks are entertaining and know how to be funny and they get roles. asians are just boring and no one will pay $12 to see them on screen...

    March 1, 2012 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Huh?

      Was Bruce Lee boring? Was Jackie Chan boring? Chow Yun Fat? Jet Li? Daniel Dae Kim? Masi Oka? Asian guys are VERY entertaining! Let me guess: You were either born under a rock – or you're racist. Gee, I wonder which one you are . . .

      March 1, 2012 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
      • Harry

        why is it that if you dont agree with asians or their culture you are classified as dumb or a racist? its very arrogant to say that.

        March 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • Huh?

        YOU'RE boring. You made a generalization about a race. What race are you? Or are you to chicken to tell me?

        March 3, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh?


      Why is it that when I raise very good examples I am suddenly "arrogant?" What race are you? Is your race just as "arrogant?"

      March 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • What?

      Is it very difficult to type with your white hood on?

      March 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
      • Huh?

        @lew rockam

        Then you're living under a rock.

        March 14, 2012 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Taylor

      Obviously, you are living in a cave. If Asians are so boring, why is Hollywood ripping off so many Asian films (like the Departed, The Lake House, My Sassy Girl, etc.), and why are Quentin Taratino's favorite directors and films Asian?

      June 18, 2012 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. Huh?

    Now that Jeremy Lin proves America can be in "Lin-Sanity," can we PLEASE have a fully Asian-American cast now for Akira? You listening Hollywood?!

    February 15, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Laz

    January 26, 2009 Ang mean naman nun. Ano sbnisaai niyo sa kanila? Murahin niyo nang Tagalog. LOL

    February 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kyser

    Also I forgot to mention......"TETSUO!" "KANEDA!"

    February 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kyser

    Look at the last White Wash Anime/Manga movie adaptation.....Dragon Ball Z......that live action movie was horrible.....to the point of pulling ones own teeth would be vastly more entertaining. Leave Akira the way it is!

    February 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. waitaminute

    No, it's not because Harry Potter isn't black.

    Sure we can't make them do anything but that doesn't mean we should stfu. Free speech is still in operation last time I checked.

    January 26, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  16. TigerOfTheSun

    But...Harry Potter wasn't black

    January 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Vince

    From a product design perspective, I personally don’t have an issue with Hollywood using non-Asian casts for the roles (I am an Asian American, btw). They are designing a product to attract the most dollars from their target consumers. It’s natural to use stars that can draw the crowd. Kristen Stewart, who is rumored to play the female led in Akira, was considered for the role for this exact reason. If there are Asian actors in Hollywood with equal star power that can guarantee a fat box office record I have no doubt they would be in the film too. It all comes down to profit.

    I agree this practice reduces the chance for Asian actors landing the big roles, but Hollywood (as a business) isn’t really in the business of promoting opportunities for Asian (or any particular race) actors either.

    I’m not a fan of Hollywood by the way, and I do think it has a tendency of butchering original works and I am skeptical of how Akira might turn out (you can see my post here: http://www.mykoola.com/blog/akira_live_action_film/ ). So I’m not pro-Hollywood in any way, just FYI. I’m purely looking at it as a product from a business perspective.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • carlton

      i see your point in the business aspect and agree with you completely (i am also asian american). however, the thing that is perpetuating this continual use of white actors taking the spots of asian americans is exaclty what the article states, they are taking the opportunities for asian americans to be represented in hollywood. how does an actor gain reputation in hollywood without a reputable resume without opportunity to play iconic roles.

      February 29, 2012 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  18. jason

    i think nowadays we have many more good actors who are asian to play asians, but i would tend to think that 55 years ago when 'the king and i' came out that there was not a thai (or even asian-american) actor who spoke english well enough AND could act well enough to replace yul brynner (this is aside from the notion that brynner himself was part asian). there was a tradeoff back then: a thai actor who probably wasn't a fantastic actor and who probably didn't speak english well, or a non-thai actor who is a terrific actor who speaks english well.

    people need to remember, even nowadays, that when casting actors there will be a tradeoff...

    January 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • mjira

      Big assumption that none of the Asian actors could speak English back then, how would you know?

      January 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      to eyorvbedy that took the time to comment or favorite this, I really do appreciate it. I've only been at this for a month or so, learning as i go. might as well do something with all this crap! Oops, I meant "collectibles". that was the bourbon talking.

      February 14, 2012 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  19. AVoice

    Yul Bryner was mixed White/Asian.

    January 24, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      He certainly was (part Mongolian.) But for some reason, a lot of people (including my fellow Asian-American film buffs and performers) either don't remember that or don't know that.

      July 4, 2012 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
  20. ytuque

    If asian men want to be leading men, they need to pump some iron.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenis




      that good enough for you?

      January 23, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • waitaminute

      Not to mention Jason Lee, Daniel Dae Kim and Jay Chou

      Cillian Murphy, Robert Pattinson and Hayden Christensen aren't exactly ripped and that didn't stop them landing lead roles.

      January 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Taylor

      Asian men have been pumping iron for several decades now. Look up Rain (in Ninja Assassin), Lee Byung Hun (in GI Joe), Choi Siwon (in Super Junior, the most popular boyband in the world), to name a few.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
  21. StarBorneMaiden

    Here's a fact: If you make a live-action version of any anime or an anime-like show such as Air bender, IT WILL FAIL. look what happened to the movie version of DBZ and ATLA. They sucked. Why? Not because of whitewashing or any of that, but because people who make them can't portray the characters as dynamically as they were written. Not to mention the movies changed so much it is criminal

    January 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Steve

    If they didnt change the setting to america, about 90% of the people watching it wouldnt get the backdrop anyways. We all learn about it in school, but a majority of the general populations doesnt care about what goes on outside the US. Especially how a foreign country feels today about an incident that happened about 70 years ago.

    January 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  23. w

    Firstly, most asian-made Anime draws it's characters to look caucasian! I've noticed this since the early 90's and it always perplexed me. Second traveling to Asia as I have done often,most of the models are European looking and round-eyed if not out in out European. But don't feel bad because White American men prefer Asian women so all is well!

    January 22, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • jc

      True, but not Akira

      January 23, 2012 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • waitaminute

      Some Asians are round eyed. Being round eyed doesn't make them look European. Only Westerners expect Asians to have narrow, slanty eyes but that's only a stereotype. If you had bothered to notice while you were in Asia, most of us don't have slanty eyes. Narrow (but not slanted) and round eyes are more common.

      January 26, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
      • Parastoo

        I think you are mtkeasin, Canada is actually growing. Immigrants are lifting this country.Contrary to the US, Canada is importing brains.

        February 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • dumbwdumb

      The anime's characters looking white? Really, they also look gay. I traveled to Europe a lot and the models look gay ass hell. White = Gay.

      February 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  24. StarBorneMaiden

    the way some of you people talk make me very sad for this country. I don't know if Asians should be cast more in films, but a lot of people here are making wide racially assumptions, for no real reason.

    January 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  25. hemo

    asians are the absolute worst people anyway. white is better so let us whitewash their weird anime

    January 22, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • StarBorneMaiden

      The characters in anime are racially ambiguous for the most part, or look Caucasian. Also, thanks for that wide spaqnning generalization of an entire race

      January 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Taylor

      Wow, can you get any more racist???

      June 18, 2012 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
  26. Paulie

    Get a grip asians. no one wants to pay to see asians on films. its not hollywood 's fault, they are just trying to make money. dont blame hollywood, blame society.

    January 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jusin

      Hollywood has to set the fuse and light the fuse. the people are not in the business of making movies, Hollywood is, and only Hollywood has the ultimate power to decide who and what is being put on the big screen. you gotta start somewhere...

      January 28, 2012 at 5:55 am | Report abuse |
  27. crazy

    They aell cell phones, do nails, make our Hondas,Toyotas,Kia and Hundai. They Asians do make trouble except they crazy guy from VA tech. I love my Asian guy guys, we are really cool.

    January 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  28. GizmoRyda

    I saw the name Kristen Stewart and died a little bit on the inside....DO NOT WANT

    January 20, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  29. Matew

    i think that asian actors heading into hollywood recently as in star singer "Rain". And that Man in Inception. But too tell you the truth. Asian actors stay in their respective Asian countries, where they are respected and loved. In America, I don't believe they feel they are treated as Actors and Stars and only seen as Asian. Which really is stupid seeing how Racist your white eyes with black pupils are. Being PC. Is not saying anything these days. Why not look up to Asians. not look at a bad angle. Not just China, but Thailand too. 🙂

    January 20, 2012 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  30. Coacoa69

    This is not new. As many attractive and talented Asian actors out there, you rarely see Asian men in starring roles – in Asian based movies. They are always the sidekick – and this is coming from and African American woman. Asian womens getter better roles in Hollywood than Asian Men and Black women – Hollywood is crappy.

    January 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • sielingfan

      And god help you if you're a latino male. You can probably land a few bad-guy roles, but that's it.

      January 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
      • sielingfan

        not to mention middle-eastern folks.

        January 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheDood

      Which is why I want fewer and fewer movies every year. As a teen and into my 20's I watched everything. Today, 30's, I hardly watch any movies.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Harold and Kumar

      February 12, 2012 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  31. sielingfan

    Since it's in the news, imagine if Red Tails was whitewashed.

    I imagine that's how Asians feel about some of these casting decisions.

    January 19, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  32. Skindeep

    This is only directed to some of those racists here... go ahead and peel off your skin! And say if you white, black, brown or yellow. These people are destroyer of peace throughout history, sadly no lessons learned... Their vision is only 1 mm deep, not more.

    January 19, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  33. arale norimaki

    white-washed like power ranger rip off sentai?

    First they had The Mexican with Brad Pitt and now we have The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise? Maybe they'll produce my film: The Last nicca on Earth starring Tom Hanks

    January 19, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Coacoa69

      Wahahahahahahahahahahahah! Funny!

      January 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      It's funny because it was taken straight out of the Chappelle Show

      January 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  34. ColdFusion

    You guys realize Asians don't live here, right? They live in Asia. There's some here but not that many. I think the proportion of Asian actors is larger than the proportion in the population, but I don't know for sure. I also think a smaller proportion of them become actors, for cultural reasons, just like a larger proportion of them become doctors.

    January 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh?

      Asian-Americans deserve more roles than what's available in the Hollywood industry now. And the Asian-American population is GROWING according to the 2011 census results. Plus, after all the bad stereotypes, there should be more positive roles they get featured in. And if Hollywood embraces more Asian American male and female actors, the more it is socially acceptable for Asians in Asian culture to go into that industry. There has to be more Demand for the Supply. Life imitates art, imitates life, imitates art, etc.

      January 19, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Coacoa69

      I hear you but look how many Australians get work in this country, and many of them still live in Australia. You don't have to live here to work here, the industry just wants to put the white face out there which is why American movies and TV are starting to get crappy. They are stealing movies ideas from Asia and starring white actors, why not Asian or other minorities. Why is it always the white face on the forefront.

      The more the change it up, the more other countries will view this country differently. The more our children will not think white is always right.

      January 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheDood

      That was a pretty goofy comment, I hope that it isn't a reflection on you.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seri

      Uh... on the contrary... Asian-Americans make up 6% of the US populations, but comprise less than 0.5% of the roles in Hollywood.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  35. Jiwoo Han

    As a film-loving Asian American, I prefer to watch movies with strong plots and multi-dimensional characters. The race of an actor shouldn't take precedent over their skill of bringing a character to life. In saying so, I feel there should be more concern in how the storyline and characters of a film being adapted from an Asian culture should respect and reflect the original flavors of that culture.

    I think it's more about the producers and directors. If they choose to adapt a film from another country to appeal to the broadest market audience for money, it'll be disrespectful to the original story as well as to the audience who won't be exposed to cultural nuances.

    If audiences were exposed to different cultural ideas in a more multi-dimensional way, it would probably be easier for studios to hire more non-Caucasian actors. And whose fault is it that audiences are being fed lowest common denominator stuff?

    January 18, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Christie

    Why does this surprise you? It's typical of whites to portray anyone worth imitating as whites, and stupid white Americans fall for it each and every time. Genghis Khan and Attilla the Hun were both East Asians, yet not only did whites portray them as white people, but they actually started to believe they were white European descent!?! LOL.

    January 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Fred G Sanford

    Until recent decades, this mostly took the form of white actors playing stereotypical representations of Asian characters, such as Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of I.Y. Yunioshi in 1961's “Breakfast at Tiffany’s," Rita Moreno as Tuptim and Yul Brynner as King Mongkut in the 1956 film "The King and I," and Katharine Hepburn as Jade Tan in 1944's "Dragon Seed."

    Last time I checked Rita Moreno was Hispanic

    January 18, 2012 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  38. Detached HalfBreed

    I gotta admit, Chinese immigrants and several generations after are some of the most instinctively racist folks around. Halfbreeds hear everything, and we know all Americans (every color and in between) are racist to an extent, intentional or not.

    Some of us try to improve. Others, well.... they want to stop talking about it.

    January 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • waitaminute

      Most racist? I don't think so. We aren't the best but we aren't the worst either. Asian Americans are well assimilated by the 2nd generation. Some immigrant groups don't assimilate even after several generations. I won't name names. Do your own research.

      January 26, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Detached HalfBreed

    Anybody watch the American "Ninja Warrior" game show? Those guys SUCK compared to heroes like Nagano Makoto.

    January 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coacoa69

      I have to agree, the reason I started watching that show was because of the Asian version. The American Version is so crappy – and I'm American.

      January 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  40. djfullshred

    This Akira movie project looks like a movie made for people who don't have a clue about the original. Because certainbly it is going to be a turnoff for anime fans, regardless of race. Funny how a loved classic is made into a film for everbody but the fans.

    January 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  41. TLWIZ

    If you want to make put up the money to make a movie, you can cast the movie. I am sure I won't see any of these films but really – get over it!

    January 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Austin

    It's called ACTING for a reason.

    January 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Idiots

    If you all want to get into this sort of thing, tell me why nearly every American comic book super hero movie is played by a non-american, mostly British or Australian. I am not complaining, because I think they did a hell of a good job. But it is a simple comparison – American/British/Australian – White/Asian/Black. Honestly I could care less, as long as the movie is a good work of art. And damn it, every culture populates films with people of similar culture, arguing about this is plain stupid.

    January 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Mike K.

    I note a lack of complaint from the author about casting a black kid into a Bronx Italian kid's role in the remake of Karate Kid. Racists focus on race; leave it alone.

    January 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Detached HalfBreed

      Yeah Mike. Let's avoid anything that makes us uncomfortable.

      A desire to avoid a conversation is an good indicator that a conversation needs to occur.

      January 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Mike K

        Not uncomfortable, just unnecessary. But bigots are as bigots do, so carry on, bigot.

        January 17, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • waitaminute

      Because the lead character in Karate Kid 2 is black. He's not a black kid cast as an Italian kid from the Bronx. Nobody's complaining about white actors being cast in remakes of Asian movies either (eg. Shutter, the Ring, the Departed)

      January 26, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Stoned Ape Theory

    If future white-washed anime adaptions keep bombing at the box office like The Last Airbender maybe Hollywood will try casting the movies differently.

    Even though I like the Magnificent Seven I like the Seven Samuri even more. That being said I wouldn't mind seeing re-makes of both of them. Of course they are very big shoes to fill and I'm not sure that Hollywood is up to the challenge these days.

    January 17, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Tallihohotwinkes

      It's not because of white actors, it's because the story is annoying and awful... Just like the cartoons..err Anime.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
      • StarBorneMaiden

        Avatar was american made. Do your research first

        January 22, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  46. david

    Bottom line: Hollywood needs to reflect the real America which is made up of the most diverse collection of ethnicities on the planet.

    It makes no sense to hire all white actors in all lead roles.

    January 17, 2012 at 5:12 am | Report abuse |
  47. david

    Asian-American actors have always had a difficult time getting parts in Hollywood. When Hollywood looks at an asian-american actor, they don't see an american. They simply think of white actors as an americans. It's a subtle racism that doesn't have to do with hate, but it's a type of casting racism nonetheless. Hollywood is just so behind when it comes to the multi-cultural reality of America today.

    Airbender was an egregious example of bad casting, because the race of the actors is so particular to the culture and feel of a story taking place in mythical Asia. They basically took white actors to play all the leads in characters integral to the asian storyline.

    January 17, 2012 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Coacoa69

      Oh my God you are sooooooo right! That movie was so horrible and even some of the best known critics mentioned that. My son hated that movie and he couldn't understand why the movie was so lame. I didn't want to explain race, but I knew that played a big part. What was up with the Indian Fire benders that didn't really bend fire, but actually needed fire nearby to use it. Didn't it just come out of their hands in the cartoon – that movie was just horrible. The martial arts were just a hot mess.

      January 19, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  48. El Vez

    This is NEWS? Hispanics have been shut out of television, movies, sports broadcasting and any else media related. There are a few notable exceptions such as George Lopez, but why are there so few Hispanic-centered shows? The new show coming out named "Rob" is full of racist jokes and stereotypes. I mean, would network TV put a show on the air wherein African Americans are openly made fun of for eating watermelons and fried chicken? I doubt it very much. So why do the producers of "Rob" feel it is ok to make such jokes about Hispanics?

    Also, why are there virtually NO Hispanic sports commentators, especially in baseball? Hispanic players account for a majority of professional baseball players, but I can't recall seeing a SINGLE Hispanic in the broadcast booth on a MLB broadcast. If we can have white women announcers for auto racing, football, and basketball, of which they account for virtually none of the participants, why can't we have at least one DAM Hispanic in the booth for an MLB game? Do we NOT speakee the englich well enough? Are there NO Hispanics that are qualified for the work?

    It all boils down to the same stereotyping and inherent racism that kept African American's off the Television until recently. The United States is NOT just black and white. Hispanics are a majority of some state populations and on the rise in several others. So why are we NOT represented in the media? Racism. That's the bottom line.

    January 17, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • just_brian

      What you are missing is the fact that the original material that the movies are based on is Asian in origin, and that the adaptation switches the race. We are not discussing the fact that there are limited roles or positions available in the media for minorities, which is not news.

      January 17, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
      • Memo

        January 16, 2009 whhahaaa, honga, paubos na wildlife kasi nasa government na halos lahatwaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy over the line nga. haha.

        February 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
      • rshuew

        U1CNHN purateycoyex

        February 12, 2012 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Fozzie

      El Vez,
      Victor Rojas is the lead announcer for the Angels. Jose Mota often does color on Fox national telecasts.

      January 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Detached HalfBreed

      I tend to think CHIPS was way more Estrada than "John". There are more Spanish television channels than any other non-white venues, though admittedly not aimed at Americanos. I can't get a Chinese channel without buying a ripoff package from CoNCast. Let's not focus on our individual cultures, and focus on impregnating white women.
      The Black American gets Tyler Perry. Is that what you want? Tyler Perry? Go watch Gabriel Iglesias and cheer up.

      January 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
      • Louie

        asians whine too much

        January 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
      • louiemommy

        louie's mommy whines too much when I put my big richard in your butt and then spill my seeds over her face.

        February 4, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  49. Jean Calisky

    Hollywood has a history of racism and that hasn't changed as it comes to Asians. Hopefully this can be changed as Asians would be just as pleasant to watch on screen as any other race. It's pretty disrespectful and disappointing that Hollywood is white-washing all these roles.

    January 17, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  50. Razorek

    There are so many idiotic comments here, that it can be difficult to decide on where to start. Let me sum it up this way: If asian guys were casted to play the lead male roles in The Lord of the Rings, would white people be okay with that? The answer is No. How about Batman or Superman? The answer again is No even though Batman and Superman or more similar to asians than white guys (alien being, foreign, strange, heavily into technology, misunderstood by the general public, etc.)

    To think that an asian actor wouldn't pull in as much money is racist, narrow minded, and an insult to the intelligence of not only the fans, but the general audience. Is one saying that white viewers won't go see an asian actor? Then what does that say about white viewers?

    Asian audiences are perfectly okay with watching, supporting, and cheering on white actors in American and European movies. Asian companies hire white actors for their movies, ads, t.v. shows, and commercials. Asian animations portray white characters as heroic and as the protagonists.

    Yet, white casting directors, writers, and particular commentators can't even return the favor or even offer the same respect.

    January 16, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  51. billy

    LOL after reading this i just think of paul Mooney on chapelle show. the last samurai on earth is tom cruise???

    but seriously im asian and i dont really care. i might have a different perspective because i'm 4th generation asian American and only speak english.

    avatar last airbender movie was terrible, so i could care less about who was who. m nights a sell out anyways, i wouldn't want any asians in his terrible movies.

    Justin lin represents though. he let the asian guy get the chick in fast five YeA. was that such an unbearable thing for white people to see? that glenn dude is cool on walking dead too.

    but overall i dont care, because its being adapted for america. i just think they should have a few asians in the cast if they are gonna adapt an asian film/book or keep it in the same setting or something.

    January 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Couldn't care less.

      January 17, 2012 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
      • Detached HalfBreed

        Sounds like you've been on the winning team for a long time. The culture in power never has to care. Guess that's the perk of being a Master Race, huh?

        January 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  52. kc

    So hollywood is so out of ideas–goes out to do asian stories–wont use asian actors. how about using americans who are asians–what does that have to do with stealing??? the ring, black water, etc..all asian original films from asia. tom cruise is not going to be top billing. no one wants jackie chan anyway! when they think akira–tom cruise???? if story and movie is good–they will go out and see it. how about godzilla and the screw up 1998 version??

    January 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  53. zelrik

    If they touch Akira, I am gonna *&@#! them!

    January 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  54. JB

    They should stop production before they waste any more money. Akira fans will will re-watch their animated copy instead of paying theater prices to see the story rewritten/ruined.

    January 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Terry

    These are the worst comments I've ever seen.

    January 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  56. Wow

    Sure lot of Hollywood apologists out here in the comments section. Did nobody read the article? Did nobody even learn about what racism is about? Wow, just... wow.

    January 16, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      Man, look at all the dickless white virgins commenting.

      January 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  57. matt

    What about Nick Fury (a white character in 99% of his comic appearances) being cast with Sam Jackson?
    What about Catwoman (99.9999% white in comics) being cast with Halle Berry?
    What about the Norse God in Thor being cast with a black actor?

    January 16, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Zoe

      Matt, the Marvel movies featuring Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury are based on the Ultimate line of comics, where Nick Fury's character was modeled after the actor who would later portray him in film. Also in the Ultimate line, Colossus is gay, the spider that bit Peter Parker was genetically engineered instead of radioactive, many characters ages have been changed, etc. All the X-Men, Spiderman, and Avengers movies of the past decade have been based on the Ultimate line, which is why we got the fiasco that was x-Men III. But personally, I'm liking Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. I was tired of trying to keep track of all the grizzled, greying, macho, soldier-type white guys that used to flood Marvel comics.

      January 16, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
      • matt

        It wasn't a complaint as much as a proof that casting is done to attract viewers whether it's done to add big names like Jackson or to attract an ethnic group that wouldn't have seen a movie like Thor because it did not have a character that they could relate to.

        January 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coacoa69

      Yo...................Halle Berry is 50% white...............get it together.

      January 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  58. Joe

    LOL, I find it amusing how people decide to make such subject a debate, and make it sound like it has something to do with racism. Who the hell cares? I mean really, its entertainment and that's all it should be. You all need to stop trying to outwit one another with all these dumb comments about something so ridiculous. I personally don't give 2 $#!T$ who plays/voice overs for anything as long as I get some good entertainment. That is all!

    January 16, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Meh

      Audience like you has become the main reason for the mass production of meaningless/cheap films to keep growing in Hollywood nowadays!

      January 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  59. nospam2

    Isn't it racist to complain that an actor is white, instead of judging his performance? Producers are going to get the biggest name actor for the part. So if they're able to get Tom Cruise instead of Jackie Chan, guess what, Tom will probably pull in more viewers. It's all about the money. If Jackie Chan were the biggest actor at the time, he probably would have been the lead actor in Valkyre, not Tom Cruise.

    January 16, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      yea thats the exact definition of racism, funny how noone gets that

      January 25, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  60. radalet

    you forgot "Charlie chan

    January 16, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  61. Hof

    Here's a novel idea: if you don't like the way Asians are portrayed, MAKE YOUR OWN F$%^%ING MOVIE!

    January 16, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Eastvillage

      You know it!

      January 16, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • you're a moron

      You know what, I've had these billions of dollars lying around just collecting dust, but now you've helped me figure out what to do with it.

      My only hope is that my movie, funded by my totally not fictional billions of dollars, will reach as large a market and potentially influence the lives of millions of people just like these movies do. That would be just great.

      January 16, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • someoneoneone

      here's a novel idea: these films that they want to make ARE BASED OFF OF ASIAN FILMS. talk about originality.

      January 16, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Detached HalfBreed

      They do make their own movies. Then we White Wash them, like "The Departed". Its not about depictions

      January 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh?


      Was Jackie Robinson supposed to own his own baseball team to actually play?

      Was Rosa Parks supposed to own her own bus company to ride in the front?

      Epic fail, racist.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
  62. Myto Senseworth

    There is no real "race" except the human race. There are only cultural differances...and all people should respect the culture of others. Don't change or try to destroy another's cultural history....

    January 16, 2012 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      It has to do with marketing. They want to make the most off these movies and to do that in America you cast white people in the parts. It is what is expected by most Americans. Who has money for movies anyway. I know I don't. White folks make the most money in this country and white folks due to the ethnocentristic nature of all ethnicities favor their own kind in hero roles. Simple. No story here.

      January 16, 2012 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  63. Me

    They're not the only ones!


    January 16, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  64. jim

    I agree. When Yul Brynner was playing King of Siam, they should have hired one of the thousands great Siamese actors to play the role. And of course the number of Asians in state schools should be proportional to the percent of population. - //actually this is sarcasm. There probably were not that many Siamese actors to choose from if the studio wanted to make money, other than the Siamese twins of course.... I have nothing against Siamese...of course.

    January 16, 2012 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
    • someoneoneone

      yea it's a little weird to be referencing these old movies when the supply wasn't really there, but come on – DBZ, Avatar, and Speed Racer?? those are pretty good modern examples.

      January 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Detached HalfBreed

      Bruce Lee was perfectly available when Carradine was cast for "Kung Fu". Go ahead, tell me he's a better actor OR fight choreographer OR stunt man. Your bias shows quite brightly.

      January 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
      • Detached HalfBreed

        Plus, Yul Brenner wasn't really an actor. Just like Vin Diesel, the only character he played was himself in different settings.

        January 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
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