Hellboy: A New Hope?

29 August 2017 | Pic PR

Rose takes a look at an actor's admirable stance in her blog for this week...

In a surprising turn of events, a relatively well-known actor has announced his decision to pull out of a film after attracting criticism for being cast in an Asian role.

Castings have recently been announced for the reboot of Hellboy, which is due to be released in 2018. Last Monday, Ed Skrein (known for playing Daario Naharis in Season 3 of Game of Thrones and Ajax in Deadpool) was cast as Major Ben Daimio. The Hellboy graphic novels are the source material for the film, in which Daimio is presented as an Asian man. While details can be lost in the translation from book to film, race is something that certainly can’t be overlooked. Thus, the controversial decision to cast a white man has sparked considerable uproar – especially considering the surplus of Asian actors that would be suitable for the role.

Skrein subsequently announced his decision to step down from the role in a statement posted on his Instagram account:

“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. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.”

Continuing, Skrein emphasises the responsibility of those in the public eye to set an example in “difficult times”:

“It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity. It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can make equal representation in the Arts a reality.”

The reaction to this statement has been overwhelmingly positive. As Skrein is not yet a household name, many have praised his move to raise standards of racial inclusivity within the industry, rather than taking the opportunity with Hellboy to further his own career. Inadvertently, however, he may well have done just that. The publicity that is currently surrounding both Skrein and Hellboy will undoubtedly be of benefit to both parties in the future.

By adapting films from their source material beyond reasonable recognition and casting white actors in minority ethnic roles, Hollywood has a long and damning history of whitewashing. A pertinent example of this was the decision to cast Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in the 2017 live-action Hollywood remake of Ghost in the Shell. In his powerful statement, Skrein implies that actors should be held accountable for their actions. There is certainly scope for change if privileged individuals in positions of power are prepared to make sacrifices and work from the ground up. After all, the producers of Hellboy would be in for a PR disaster if they now attempted to cast another white man as Daimio.

In taking a clear moral stance on this issue, Skrein has taken a definitive step in the right direction – and generated some great publicity for himself in the meantime.