Ken Watanabe in Akira!

he will replace Gary Oldman...

Written by ronin
Published about over 5 years ago. Filed Under: Movies

A Japanese actor has been approached to star in an adaptation of a Japanese anime!

Doesn't exactly sound like shocking news, but [unfortunately] it is. Ken Watanabe (Last Samurai, Inception, Batman Begins, Memoirs of a Geisha) is being approached for the role of the token, cough, I mean colonel in the not-so anticipated Akira, now that Gary Oldman has rejected the offer.

What makes Ken Watanabe such an interesting and exciting choice is that the rest of the potential cast -- Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Helena Bonham-Carter and a whole slew of actors testing for Tetsuo -- are all white. In fact, Ken Watanabe is the first Asian actor mentioned for any of the key roles in the adaptation!

This process known as "white washing" has brought a lot of negative attention to the project. Many fans of the original have rebelled against the white-washed casting, and even "Star Trek" star George Takei came out in an interview and compared the decision to M. Night Shyamalan casting all-white actors in his "The Last Airbender" film - which by the way didn't matter in the end as the movie was just a giant dog fart for whole set of different reasons. Here is what Takei had to say to Advocate:

I’m surprised Warner Bros. is not keeping up with the audience. The manga and anime phenomenon is mostly white in this country. It originated in Japan, and, of course, it has a huge Asian fan following. But it’s the multi-ethnic Americans who are fans of 'Akira' and manga. The idea of buying the rights to do that and in fact change it seems rather pointless...If they’re going to do that, why don’t they do something original, because what they do is offend Asians.

I am of the view that an actors skin colour/race is often irrelevant and that they should be cast on the basis that they are right for the role. Unless, of course we are talking about a period piece or a particular setting (not including The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise!). The problem is however, that Hollywood continually shows resistance in casting ethnic actors in general - unless it is martial arts movie!

In instances such as this and the Last Airbender are insult to injury to many people who feel marginalised in the media, regardless of what motives behind the cast decisions. In any case, I find it hard to believe that there aren't any aAian actors capable of playing these and more characters. Hollywood just needs to make more an effort to break the trend and what better way than to start with projects that celebrate and are inspired by Asian culture or art!

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