British actor, Ed Skrein, who notably played the role of Ajax in Deadpool, has withdrawn from the upcoming Hellboy reboot after his casting was met with controversy.
The 34-year-old actor was set to play Major Ben Daimio in the rebooted adaptation of the cult comic series. However, the casting news was met with public outcry as the character is of Japanese-American descent in the Hellboy comics, which the films are to be based on. Critics have said that Skrein’s casting was just another instance of Hollywood whitewashing, which we have seen many times over with the likes of films such as Doctor Strange (Tilda Swinton playing the Tibetan Ancient One), Ghost In The Shell (Scarlett Johansson playing the Japanese Major Kusanagi) and most recently, Netflix’s Death Note (a film based entirely on a Japanese story which was moved to Seattle without a single hint of Asian representation).
In a post on social media, Skrein said he accepted the role of Ben Daimio unaware of the character’s Asian heritage.
“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,” wrote Skrein. “I feel it is important to honor and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.”
Hellboy producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin responded with joint statement together with Lionsgate and Millennium stating that they fully supported Skrein’s “unselfish decision.”
“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision. It was not our intent to be insensitive to issues of authenticity and ethnicity, and we will look to recast the part with an actor more consistent with the character in the source material.”
The latest iteration of Hellboy will reboot the franchise originally brought to the screen by Guillermo del Toro. The film will include David Harbour as the titular character along with Ian McShane and Milla Jovovich.