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19 Actors Who Took Roles That They Proooooobably Shouldn't Have


1. When Scarlett Johansson (a white woman) played Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese character, in Ghost in the Shell.

Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi sitting in a chair and looking at something offscreen.
©Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

2. When Ben Kingsley — although of Indian descent — played Gandhi in Gandhi, during which he wore dark brownface and body makeup.

Ben Kingsley as Gandhi with his hands pressed together in front of his face.
Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans

3. When Jared Leto (a cisgender man) played Rayon, a trans woman, in Dallas Buyers Club.

Jared Leto as Rayon without her wig.
©Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

4. When Mickey Rooney (a white man) played Mr. Yunioshi, a racist stereotype of an Asian man, in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi taking a steam bath in his apartment.
Courtesy Everett Collection

5. When Eddie Redmayne (a straight, cisgender man) played Lili Elbe, one of the first recorded trans women to undergo sex reassignment surgery, in The Danish Girl.

Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe, reading in a dress on her couch next to her dog.
©Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collect

6. When Elizabeth Taylor (a white woman) played Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, in Cleopatra.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, dressed in jewel-toned garbs and a gold headdress.
Mary Evans / Everett Collection

7. When Emma Stone (a white woman) played Captain Allison Ng, a character of Hawaiian and Chinese decent, in Aloha.

Emma Stone as Allison looking skyward.
©Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

8. When Ziyi Zhang (who's Chinese) and Michelle Yeoh (who's Malaysian) played two Japanese characters in Memoirs of a Geisha — a film that depicts a traditional aspect of Japanese culture.

Ziyi Zhang as Chiyo dressed in traditional Geisha dress.
Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

9. When Jake Gyllenhaal (a white man) played Dastan, a character who's descended from Persia (modern-day Iran) in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan looking shocked.
©Walt Disney / Courtesy Everett Collection

10. When Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth (both white) were cast in 21 — a film based on a true story about the MIT Blackjack Team, which consisted of all Asian students.

Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth playing blackjack.
Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

11. When Natalie Wood (a white woman of Russian descent) played Maria, a Puerto Rican woman, in West Side Story.

Natalie Wood as Maria in West Side Story hugging Tony.
Courtesy Everett Collection

12. When Laurence Olivier (a white man) played Othello, a famous black character in Shakespeare's catalogue, in Othello, which he wore blackface for and adopted a camp accent.

Laurence Olivier as Othello talking to Iago.
Courtesy Everett Collection

13. When Nat Wolff (a white man) played Light, a Japanese character, in Death Note.

Nat Wolff as Light looking at content on his computer with his girlfriend.
©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

14. When Rooney Mara (a white woman) played Tiger Lily, a Native American character, in Pan.

Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily wearing a traditional headdress.
©Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

15. When Zoe Saldana — a woman of Hispanic, Lebanese, and Haitian descent — played Nina Simone in a biopic where she wore darker makeup and a nose prosthetic.

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone preparing to sing.
RLJ Entertainment

16. When Christian Bale (a white man) played the biblical Moses, who is Egyptian, in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Christian Bale as Moses on his way to lead the charge.
©20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

17. Finally, when Angelina Jolie (a white woman) played Marianne Pearl, a woman of Afro-Cuban descent, in A Mighty Heart, during which she wore darker makeup and a kinky wig.

Angelina Jolie as Marianne Pearl sitting at a desk and taking notes.
Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection