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.
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.
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."
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 email@example.com.
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