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Ed Skrein Exits "Hellboy" Reboot After Whitewashing Backlash

"I must do what I feel is right," the British actor tweeted.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Ed Skrein has pulled out from his role as Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming Hellboy reboot in response to an outcry of "whitewashing" by the public.

After it was announced last week that the British actor would play Daimio, who is Japanese-American in the original comics, social media erupted into outrage. People slammed Lionsgate for casting a white actor as an Asian-American character.

Mm nice English boy Ed Skrein is playing Japanese-American (in the comics) character Ben Daimio for the new HELLBOY… https://t.co/XdPPM02AE8

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Because when I think playing a Japanese American character, I think Ed Skrein...? #Hellboy #whitewashing

what kind of shitty whitewashing is this? ben daimio is a japanese-american character. i hope this reboot flops. https://t.co/Iqi6QPZCMA

At least I don't have to see the new #HellboyMovie. Ed Skrein as Ben Daimio is a no-go for me. See you on Ghost in the Shell pile, HB

After a week of backlash, Skrein — best known for his roles in Deadpool and Game of Thrones — announced his exit from the project today.

"I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage," he wrote in a tweet.

20th Century Fox

He referred to the online conversations and people being "upset" over the role. "I must do what I feel is right," he continued. "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 voices in the Arts."

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This may be the first time an actor has departed a project in response to criticism and accusations of whitewashing from the public.

Whitewashing is a Hollywood trend dating back decades, and Asian-Americans are often the target, with one of the earliest and most infamous instances being Mickey Rooney's role as a bucktoothed Japanese man in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

More recently in 2016, however, Scarlett Johansson drew ire for taking on the lead role of Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell. Then after it was announced that Tilda Swinton would play the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, backlash over Hollywood whitewashing continued to mount, culminating in a lively #whitewashedOUT movement online.

People have taken to Twitter to commend Skrein for his decision to depart the project "so that the role can be cast appropriately."

Me for the rest of the day, to everyone: did you know Ed Skrein is a Good Boy

This is huge. Ed Skrein has left the HELLBOY reboot after the whitewashing controversy https://t.co/ISJc5jUoLD

The kind of leadership we need more of in Hollywood—major props to @edskrein for bowing out of Hellboy in response… https://t.co/PxICtfXKmL

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Respect brotha. @edskrein 🙏 Not just for doing this but for your words about representation. #hellboy https://t.co/o1qtDomPqi

I don't ever want to hear that a White actor/actress can't step away from a Whitewashed role. Ed Skrein just showed y'all how.

THIS 👏 IS 👏WHAT 👏ACCOUNTABILITY 👏LOOKS 👏LIKE 👏TILDA👏SCARLETT👏EMMA👏NAT👏& MATT https://t.co/qgcPpkjw6q?amp=1

HOLY SHIT. A WHITE ACTOR ACTUALLY STEPPED DOWN FROM AN ASIAN ROLE. @edskrein. Respect. #whitewashing #hellboy… https://t.co/SMWezKhiPH

@edskrein wait has this even happened before it feels like this is the first time someone's done something

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Ed Skrein is retroactively the best Daario now 👏👏👏

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Lionsgate for a comment.

UPDATE

Lionsgate and Millennium Films and the producers behind Hellboy — Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin — have responded to BuzzFeed News' request for a comment. Their joint statement is in full below.

“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.”

Susan Cheng is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Susan Cheng at susan.cheng@buzzfeed.com.

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