Shyamalan’s ‘The Last Airbender’ Gets New Cast Members

Published 6 years ago by , Updated March 14th, 2009 at 11:46 am,

the last air bender poster1 Shyamalans The Last Airbender Gets New Cast Members

M. Night Shyamalan’s newest film The Last Airbender, a live-action adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon animated TV series, is one which undoubtedly will end up having a huge cast. We’ve already reported on some early casting news over the past few months, including Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel replacing Jesse McCartney as the character of Prince Zuko.

Well today we get four more people being added to the cast list: Aasif Mendvi, Shaun Toub, Cliff Curtis and Keong Sim. Don’t recognize those names? No worries: we’ve got the info you need to know about the actors and their roles in The Last Airbender.

Mandvi, who some may know from films and TV shows like Ghost Town, CSI and Jericho (to name but a few), will play the role of Commander Zhao, a character described as “an ambitious and hot-tempered Fire Nation commander.”

Shaun Toub, who we saw most recently helping Tony Stark build his first suit in Iron Man, is set to play Uncle Iroh, the “retired Fire Nation general who is the devoted surrogate parent to Dev Patel’s character, Zuko.”

Cliff Curtis, who some may know from the likes of Sunshine, Live Free or Die Hard and Training Day (amongst many others – he’s a busy man), will play the “ruthless ruler Fire Lord Ozai.”

And Sim, who’s only appeared as mainly extras in a handful of TV shows, has been cast as the character of Earthbending Father.

These four will join previously announced cast members Noah Ringer (who plays the title role), Nicola Peltz (Waterbender Katara), Jackson Rathbone (Katara’s brother Sokka), and Dev Patel (playing the previously mentioned Prince Zuko, prince of the Fire Nation).

air bender Shyamalans The Last Airbender Gets New Cast Members

Now, I’m not even going to pretend to lie and say I know all about the original Airbender TV series (in fact, I hadn’t even heard of it before the movie was announced). But from the images I’ve seen, and the story outline, it seems like it could work as a film–although it comes off (to an unknowing movie fan like myself) as similar in style to Dragonball Z (which we all know the movie version of looks horrific). Is that an unfair association on my part?

Just as a reminder of what all we’re talking about, here is the film synopsis for The Last Airbender:

Air, Water, Earth, Fire. Four nations tied by destiny until the Fire Nation launches a brutal war against the others. A century has passed with no hope in sight to change the path of this destruction. Caught between combat and courage, Aang (Noah Ringer) discovers he is the lone Avatar with the power to manipulate all four elements. Aang teams with Katara (Nicola Peltz), a Waterbender, and her brother, Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), to restore balance to their war-torn world.

It’s been mainly casting news that’s been released about this flick so far, so we’ll have to wait until the trailers drop to truly get a sense of if it’s going to work or not.

However what’s got me interested right away is the fact that M. Night Shyamalan is attached to this project. Yes, he has seriously lost his way over the course of his last few films (even thinking about Lady in the Water makes me want to vomit), regardless, it’s interesting to see him try his hand at something like The Last Airbender. The man’s gone from creative and original thrillers to a live-action adaptation of an animated TV series – I think we ought to give him the benefit of the doubt for now, if only to see what he does with this thing.

The Last Airbender is scheduled for a July 2nd 2010 release.


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  1. I wonder if there’ll be a twist at the end? Hopefully its that the movie was actually good.

  2. Some of that casting is pretty good, at last. Especially like Cliff Curtis as Ozai. That could work.

    Not sure why, but they seem to have gone for an Asian look for the Fire Nation.

  3. Avatar the Last Airbender is nothing like DBZ. I am a fan of both shows and the Dragonball movie looks pretty bad, but the show survived on the mere awesome fights. Last Airbender is a deeply made plot with an imaginative created alternate universe (think in terms of Harry Potter). I had heard of it on and off and decided to start watching it one day. Was instantly hooked.
    If the movie is done with the same theme of the show and has some of the awesome fights (the shows has them but does not rely on them) then all will be fine…I can only hope. I can’t wait to see a trailer for this…or some pictures of cast members in costume.

  4. steven: “Not sure why, but they seem to have gone for an Asian look for the Fire Nation.”

    Hmmm, maybe because the Fire Nation is Asian(as well as all the other nation). Actually, Im not sure why they seemed to have given the rest of the nations(particularly the leads) the “white” look.

  5. Sorry I meant Asian as in Indian/Pakistan etc. The subcontinent Asian. Not further east, which is more the kind of setting for Avatar.

    And yes, considering how the rest seem white, it is an odd choice.

  6. No casting done for Toph huh, she’s gonna be interesting, 12 years old, Aang’s Earthbending teacher and to top it off she’s blind. This movie should be interesting to say the least. Then Zuko’s sadistic sister Azula, if they get the right people and they nail the personalities this will be one hell of a movie.

  7. Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!

    How can they NOT make Jason Issac’s Ozai!!!1

  8. I have seen many people comment that they wonder why they are going for a “white” look in the characters and not an “Asian” look. Are these people brain-dead? It’s because the characters themselves are NOT Asian. The Avatar universe is Asian influenced, but the show is an American cartoon and the characters themselves are white! Simply comparing the characters’ eyes with those of white people vs Asian people, and the difference (and character “race”) is perfectly clear.

    I think the only reason Shyamalan is going with an Indian look for the Fire Nation is simply because he himself is Indian. His narcissism can be the only reason for that choice, seeing as all the actual Fire Nation characters are “white” like all the other nations.

    I’m not a racist by any means. However, I am a purest and wish that when Hollywood made movies based on pre-existing items, that they didn’t butcher the source-material.

  9. And Shaun Toub as Iroh!?!?!?!? Are you kidding me!?

    Ed Asner would have been a much better choice!

  10. Well, I think the casting is really botched up; and this mistake alone will drown the movie! The show was awesome(one of ‘The Best’ animations till date!).
    As far as the ‘Asian’ look goes, the show itself had asian roots. Every character has asian traits if not fully asian(even if the show was american). Aang himself has an oriental look and the story of monks and everything is every bit asian in nature. Infact Shyamalan(Indian himself) has cast Indian actors as Fire nation characters(who the fans will remember are the bad guys!.No narcissism there Jim!) I agree Shaun Taub is a really bad choice as Iroh, he would have been better as the Indian sage who helps Aang in reaching Avatar state.(But Ed Asner is too old Jim.)
    Infact the only decent pick from the actors recruited is Cliff Curtis.The central characters have all got a raw deal. Aang is definitely asian(and Noah Ringer is NOT!).Jackson Rathbone(Twilight) is too old to play Sakka(DOB: 1984).Dev Patel’s mannerisms are nowhere near Zuko’s. Zuko is a troubled character with anger and unfulfilled potential as his prime characteristics. He resembles The Dark Prince of ‘Prince of Persia’ but is somewhat cooler. Either Dev will have to do a hell of a job or his contributions will be noted after the movie fails!
    Man, I hate watching such a good series being dismantled in Hollywood.(the worse part being that this isnt the first nor the last).

  11. I love the animated series, own them all on DVD, and I hope for the best but … Shimalayaniaminaonam is still directing it and the horrid, acidic taste that was “The Happening” still lingers in my still-freshly vomited taste buds.

  12. Hersh,

    I only meant that Ed Asner would have been a better choice than the guy they picked. But come on, too old? Ed Asner could play a 3 year old girl in a pink dress. He’s amazing! hahaha

  13. Pssshh, those silly little asians and their silly slanted eyes don’t deserve starring roles, just hire a bunch of them as extras so we can say “see? they are there!” Yep, that’s all you need… I mean, who says the characters are asian? Those monks are white right?? Those robes and outfits they wear and the staff weapon the main character is using, that is typical of 9th century Europeans right? Yah…


  14. Yeah there is only one problem ‘Ken J’, those ‘silly little Asians’ are the ones running the world economy right now! The future success of the movie depends on how the movie is perceived in countries and continents outside the States.Thats’ global economy for you.
    P.S. 9th century europeans with staffs; hilarious!

  15. @Hersh
    Of course I was being sarcastic, lol. Mainly referring to the people here trying to argue that the characters on the show are all white, not Asian, defending the casting choices. 😀

  16. Never seen the show but I have watched all of M. Night whatchamacallhim’s movies; which means I’m not watching this unless all of the Screen Rant staff says it’s good. M. Night Thingamajig has become too much of a hack.

  17. Yah, I definitely agree with you there, but why do you keep avoiding his name? It’s not hard, it’s M. Night Shayayayayaraealalalllaaalan. See, simple enough… 😀

  18. At least the movie has “Avatar’s” original writers.. but some of these casting choices. I mean how hard is it to find an asian actor to play zuko? Shyamalan is clearly casting Dev out of vanity-no matter how talented an actor he is, he will never be a convincing Zuko. I’m hoping enough dust will be kicked up about this that he’ll reconsider..

  19. The characters are white in the show? What? Since when? Last time I checked, if it looked, ate, wrote, dressed, and overall acted like an Asian… Well, then they’re Asian. Most of the time at least. Even then, those who aren’t, aren’t white or Indian. This sounds like a cast of pure and utter racism. I mean, if it was just a few tweaks, maybe not. But the most popular character amoung fangirls, Zuko, is being played by an Indian guy. There is something wrong there. He doesn’t even look Indian.

  20. My family and I are such fans of this series. I have DVR’d the whole series. I really hope Shyamalan does it justice.

    His movies, lately, have been less than just okay.

    I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    I actually like he has Dev Patel playing Prince Zuko, although I would have liked the original, Jesse.

    In any case, I am keeping my fingers crossed.

  21. Uh, Jim, in case you haven’t noticed, animators almost never draw Asians to look Asian if you’re looking for the “chinky” eyes. Yes, I know you are. *cough*anime*cough*

    Look at how he’s dressed, his “monk” like inspiration for his appearance, training, and outfit, and of course, look at his name. Yes, Aang is such a caucasian name. What is that, South Boston?

    Katara must be an Italian-American name huh? And Sokka sounds good ol’ Southern countryboy to me… [/sarcasm]

    Watch any Anime, they are all “Japanese” yet they all look American. That’s just the way they draw them.

  22. Ken, first of all you could have used a little less assumption. The “chinky” eyes (as you called them), or lack thereof, are not the only things that distinguish the characters from real-world Asians. But I’m not going to get into anymore discussions on this page except to explain how I would cast the different nations …

    *Air Nomands = Asians (probably of Tibetan descent)
    *Water Tribes = People of Eskimo descent (though I don’t know how common blue eyes are for Eskimos)
    *Fire Nation = Native Americans (we learn in the show that the Fire Benders are descendants of the Sun Warriors, who’s look and culture is modeled after the Aztecs and/or Mayans)
    *Earth Kingdom = Pretty much a melting pot, but predominantly Anglo descent.

    And Ken, keep in mind that Avatar is neither anime nor Japanese. It’s an American cartoon based on Asian lore and styled loosely after anime.

  23. Um, yes, if I thought Avatar WAS anime, would I refer TO anime as if it was a separate thing? I was trying to make a point that animators very often draw faces of Asians to appear more western…

  24. some people are saying that the leads are white b/c this is an American cartoon. I’m just really confused b/c i didn’t realize American where only white.

  25. The only characters who have a good casting in my opinio nare Sokka and Katara. Nevertheless, I’ll be looking forward to this.

  26. i guess the one playing katara is too old for a 14 year-old. she is also too old for the one playing aang. but if she can play the part, it might be good.

  27. Actually the ‘chink’ eye issue you are referring to is a non-issue whether you think Avatar is anime or not. Western cartoons tend to be drawn with a larger rounded eye anyway, but anime rules are different. The style developed from paintings where a larger rounder eye symbolised childlike innocence and an openess of spirit. Therefore it is logical that as Nickolodeon drew on anime and eastern styles they adopted this too, giving Aang, Katara the widest eyes, Sokka slightly narrower to reflect his slightly older age and occasional cynicism (which explains why his eye shape is different to that of Katara, his sister), whereas Zuko and Ozai, who are crueller and very closed-minded, at least to begin with, have the narrowest eye shape.
    So we can’t judge nationality by eye-shape we have to look at other factors.

    Aang- With him you could easily get away with a white kid. He is pale skinned and has large round eyes. But don’t look at him in isolation. Aang was brought up by monks and if you look at both the temples *thgeir location in the four corners of the world) and other monks themselves there is a strong eastern influence such as Gyatso’s accent, and tibetan buddhist forms in his necklace, the temples, and the process of choosing the Avatar which is based on the process used to find the next Dalai Lama. Aang is seen to have dark hair but yes, he could be caucasian if you wanted.

    Zuko- While Zuko is pale skinned this could be seen as a sign of his nobility (only peasants who would work in the sun would get a tan, so pale skin signified that you were rich enough not to have to work) Although eye shape is not significant he does have a more tapered eye which persists throughout the series despite personality alterations, so it is reasonable to assume that he is of a different ‘race’ to Aang. Ergo, if Aang is caucasian, Zuko is not. He most likely has an oriental background, and if you watch a few foreign films it quickly becomes obvious that being of Chinese (for example) origin does not necessarily denote dark skin.

    Toph- Her tone is similar to Zuko’s and her surname, Bei Fong, is based around Chinese word structures. However, as someone pointed out, the Earth kingdom could legitimately have some European influence, as it covers a large central area on the map. So she can be up for grabs.

    Sokka and Katara – Here there isn’t much of an arguement. Put Sokka and Aang side by side and there is a clear difference in skin tone. Out of all the main characters these two can definitely be described as having an ‘ethnic’ backgrounds. There has been some debate over whether that would make them Indian, Native American or Inuit (my vote goes with Inuit due to pure geographical location of the water tribes and their clothing, but Native American still sounds reasonable.) but they are clearly not caucasian.

    With this in mind it’s easy to see why some people are disturbed by the fact that both are being portrayed by notably caucasian actors. The reason Avatar works is due to it’s global relevance. Unlike many films which talk about the destruction of ‘the world’ but only actually show the destruction of America, the Gaang travel all over the world. The variety of people they meet, from pseudo-Hindu gurus to mezzo-American sun warriors, is what makes their journey so interesting. Speaking as a white British girl, it was a breath of fresh air to see a show with such a global scope to it, and now my greatest fear is that apart from a few token ethnic actors (yes, Dev Patel, I’m looking at you) the ‘white’/caucasian nature of the key cast will reduce that breathtakingly global scope down to western civilasation alone and once again, no matter how many CGI iceburgs and pagodas are included, the story will show a white American boy and his white American friends saving white America from the ethnic fire nation.

    I think we just landed back in the fifties, people.

  28. Having watched Avatar many times before, i was excited for the movie. There was also an article in my local newspaper about a casting call held not too far away. I looked up the movie on IMDb and was confused at the casting. I couldn’t fine a photo of Noah Ringer, so I don’t know what to say for him, but I was surprised at the casting of Jackson Rathbone and Dev Patel. I know Rathbone from Twilight, and was excited to see Patel on the movie instead of Jesse McCartney, but I can’t help but with that they would reverse their roles. Rathbone has a paler complexion and he seems attuned to more serious and troubled characters (i.e. Jasper Cullen), whereas Patel seems to be more humorous and a trickster, as seen in Skins, which better fits the role of Sokka. Also, Patel seems to fit Sokka more, both in mannerisms and heritage/skin tone. I haven’t heard much about Nicola Peltz, but she seems to match Rathbone in the case that they are playing siblings. I’m going to keep tabs on the cast out of curiosity, but hope that there will be more wise decisions made.