Last month, Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures released a short list of actors under consideration for starring roles in the live version of the Anime epic, “Akira.” Included in the list were Justin Timberlake, James McAvoy, Robert Pattinson and Andrew Garfield, just to name a few. Sounds like a great cast, right? Well, it’s not. The lead characters in the animated feature on which this film is based upon are all Japanese, something none of the listed actors are.
Outrage shortly followed this announcement, with bloggers and fanboys alike flaming the Internet with their opinions on the matter. Most agreed that should Warner Bros. go with an all-white cast, “Akira” would turn into another “Last Airbender.”
I concur and, as it happens, so does one of my favorite sci-fi actors: George Takei.
Dismayed over this development, Takei spoke to The Advocate on Monday about his thoughts on this matter:
- The manga and anime phenomenon is mostly white in this country. It originated in Japan, and, of course, it has a huge Asian fan following. But it’s the multi-ethnic Americans who are fans of Akira and manga. The idea of buying the rights to do that and, in fact, change it seems rather pointless. If they’re going to do that, why don’t they do something original, because what they do is offend Asians, No. 1; No. 2, they offend the fans. The same thing happened with M. Night Shyamalan. He cast his project [“The Last Airbender”] with non-Asians and it’s an Asian story, and the film flopped.
Interesting enough, interviewer, Ross von Metzke, asked George Takei if he believed this was an issue for African-American actors. Takei’s response was no.
- Oh, absolutely not. African-Americans have made enormous advances. There are a whole host of bankable stars who are African-American. Can you name one bankable Asian-American star? No. There isn’t. You have Denzel Washington, Samuel Jackson. A whole host of them. One can’t name a single Asian-American whose name you can take to the bank and get a project financed. We are making headways.
Although, I do agree that African-Americans have made stronger strides in the entertainment industry and are more visible than Asian actors, whitewashing is still a problem. Three words: “A Mighty Heart.”
Toward the end of the interview, Takei gives Warner Bros a pass. He doesn’t feel the studio is being reluctant on purpose. To put it simply, ”they just don’t know better.” You can read the rest of the enlightening dialogue at The Advocate and for those who wish to stay informed, Racebending.com started a petition, which is gaining momentum on Facebook.
I certainly hope Warner Bros is mulling things over, as I have a feeling this stopped being the Hughes bros. call a long time ago.
Feedback on this topic can be voiced to the right. Tell me what you think of George Takei’s public stance. I, for one, didn’t think I could respect the man any more than I do now.
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