Ed Skrein has pulled out of the upcoming Hellboy reboot, after his casting was met with controversy over a white actor being chosen to represent a non-white character.
Ed’s involvement in the film was announced just last week, with Deadline reporting he’d play Major Ben Daimio, a “rugged military member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense” who, due to a supernatural encounter, can “turn into a jaguar when angered or in pain.”
There was just one problem. In the original comic books on which Hellboy is based, Ben Daimio is Japanese-American, while Ed, on the other hand, is from Camden in London, England, and bears such a resemblance to the actor Jason Statham he replaced him in the Transporter movies.
Hmm. The news led some to object to Ed’s casting, calling it another example of Hollywood “whitewashing” a character. Recent castings that have been met by similar criticism include Tilda Swinton playing the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, who in the comics is a man from Kamar-Taj, a fictional kingdom in the Himalayas, and Scarlett Johansson playing the lead in this year’s Hollywood reboot of Japanese anime classic Ghost in the Shell.
In Ed’s case, though, the outcry was such that he decided to exit the film. The Deadpool star made the announcement himself on his Twitter account last night (August 28), saying he was stepping down “so the role can be cast appropriately:”
— Ed Skrein (@edskrein) August 28, 2017
Fellow rapper and actor Riz Ahmed was quick to applaud Ed’s actions:
While Star Wars‘ John Boyega also chimed in:
Nothing but respect ! https://t.co/mNs2tHDXH7
— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) August 29, 2017
And film critic Rebecca Theodore had this to say:
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.
— ReBecca Theodore (@FilmFatale_NYC) August 28, 2017
Meanwhile, the reboot of the Hellboy franchise continues, with Neil Marshall (The Descent) in the director’s chair instead of Guillermo del Toro, who directed the first three Hellboy movies.
In a statement given to the Hollywood Reporter yesterday (August 28), the film’s producers — Larry Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Millennium and Lionsgate — said they supported Ed’s decision.
“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision,” they said, before apologizing. “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.”
Whoever that may be will join a cast that already includes Stranger Things star David Harbour in the lead role, American Gods‘ Ian McShane as Professor Broom (a role previously played by the late, great John Hurt), and Resident Evil‘s Milla Jovovich as “Nimue the Blood Queen.”
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