There's never been a higher demand for diversity in Hollywood movies, from biopics to superhero blockbusters. But movie fans know that whether the studio intends it or not, some of the most offensive castings can leave audiences wondering why anyone ever thought it was a good idea. Here are 10 Racist Casting Decisions in Movies.
The movie disappeared from theaters in no time, and for a few reasons. One of the most controversial was the decision to cast actress Emma Stone as Captain Allison Ng ("eng") - a woman who reminds a few people in the movie that she's one quarter Hawaiian, and one quarter Chinese. The director eventually apologized, and Stone herself regretted being miscast, but the lack of ethnic diversity in the films version of Hawaii wound up being just as criticized.
Prince of Persia
The title of this video game movie tells you all you need to know about the hero, Dastan. But when Jake Gyllenhaal landed the lead part, people had to ask if the studio realized such a whitewashed hero in middle eastern costume seemed pulled from the 1930s. Then again, Dastan WAS adopted... But this decision still stinks.
There was a time when people claimed that there was NO role Johnny Depp couldn't play. But when he was announced to be playing the Native American Tonto in Disney's Lone Ranger, the reveal of his stereotypical clothing, dialogue, and antics turned audiences against the project before it was even finished. It may have been meant as a throwback to the original series, but some relics of the past are left behind for a reason.
Avatar The Last Airbender
Take your pick on M Night Shyamalan's adaptation of the hit Nickelodeon cartoon, since the show's twists on human civilizations and geography made the implied races of the different tribes pretty obvious. Had the cast adapted the Chinese, Japanese, Himalayan and Inuit characters of the show, it could have been both faithful and progressive. But casting white actors in basically every role except the Villain... Confused as many fans as it outraged - with good reason.
Gods of Egypt
From the title, most audiences would expect to see Egyptian God's brought to life as... well, Egyptian. Or, failing that, not just a bunch if white guys stomping around ancient Egypt playing deities. That's what they got, though, and the studio and director apologized. Even actor Chadwick Boseman admitted the lack of diversity was why he joined the cast at all, citing the same preferences for white leads among Hollywood studios.
It's no secret that Avatar's story draws as much on the colonization of the new world as Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, and too many other stories to count. But you can't accuse the studio of racist casting if the "people of color" in the movie are BLUE, can you? Well, once people noticed most of the heroic cast was white, and the leaders of the primitive Na'vi were played by Zoe Saldana, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi ("Stoo-dee"), and Laz Alonso - all African American or Native American - the questions started to rise. But a massive box office haul drowned most of them out.
Memoirs of a Geisha
Whitewashing isn't the only kind of racist casting studios need to worry about. The adaptation of this novel also followed a Japanese girl from childhood - but outraged Japanese audiences when the main roles were filled with Chinese, or ethnically Chinese actresses. It's obvious why an outcry arose, but the historical and racial criticisms of the novel may have played a part - since some of the filmmakers claimed that not many Japanese actresses actually showed interest in playing the characters.
The idea of a comedy showing a method actor willing to dye his skin and play a stereotype was risky to begin with, but in Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey, Jr. won over most critics as Kirk Lazarus - or Staff Sargent Lincoln Osiris. But for those who felt there was no good reason to put an actor in black face - self aware or not - Downey's nomination for a best supporting actor Oscar was as outrageous as anything in the film itself.