Actor Ed Skrein has announced that he's leaving the cast of Neil Marshall's Hellboy reboot because he feels that his character, Major Ben Daimio, should be played by an actor of Asian heritage.
Ed Skrein Photo: Gage Skidmore
"I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage," he said. "There has been intense conversation and understandable upset sinmce that announcement, and I must do what I feel is right."
Skrein's decision comes in the wake of controversy over Scarlett Johansson's casting in Ghost In The Shell, which was mitigated somewhat when the original series creators said they were happy with the decision, but which highlighted a tendency for Hollywood to whitewash stories with Asian characters, also seen in recent years with the casting of Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange and Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness.
A study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism showed that, in 2015, not one of the top-grossing 100 films had an Asian lead, and 49% had no Asian characters at all. Actors are concerned that Asian men tend to be stereotyped into geek role in Hollywood films, whilst Asian women are stereotyped as submissive and are often cast as sex workers.
Major Daimio is the only major Hellboy character traditionally represened as Asian. David Harbour has the title role in the new film, which is also set to star Milla Jovovich and Ian McShane.
"It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people," said Skrein of Major Daimio. "To neglect this responsibility would contrinue 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.
"Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. 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 we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality.
"I am sad to leave Hellboy but if this decision brings us closer to that day, it is worth it. I hope it makes a difference."
Skrein recent appeared in Deadpool and is currently filming on Born A King.