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George Takei Advises Warner Bros. Against 'Whitewashing' Akira Movie!

| Filed under: Film FlickersInspiration


Wow! We're so glad that he's taking such a serious stand!

In the film industry, it's become pretty much common practice for big-screen adaptations of popular Asian graphic novels and video games to be what's known as "whitewashed," which means the studios casting white actors in roles that are meant for other ethnicities!

The most recent example of this rumored to be the long-awaited film version of the Japanese graphic novel Akira, but thankfully, Star Trek actor George Takei has taken a stand against the practice, and has publicly asked Warner Brothers execs to re-consider before any official decisions are made!

Here are some HIGHlights from the interview on the matter:

Were you surprised to find out Warner Bros. is courting white leading men for roles in the adaptation of Akira?

George Takei: It’s not a surprise because that’s been a Hollywood tradition. For example, when I was very young, I read Pearl Buck’s epic novel of China, The Good Earth. And that film, all of the principal major roles were cast with Caucasians. As a matter of fact, Luise Rainer, who played the wife, won an Oscar for that. Paul Muni was her husband. It’s an old Hollywood tradition that we’ve always been battling, not just Hollywood but Broadway too, if you remember Miss Saigon and the furor over that. So, no, I really wasn’t surprised, but the audience has changed now, and 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, number 1; number 2, they offend the fans. The same thing happened with M. Night Shyamalan. He cast his project [The Last Airbender] with non-Asians and it’s an Asian story, and the film flopped. I should think that they would learn from that, but I guess big studios go by rote, and the tradition in Hollywood has always been to buy a project, change it completely and flop with it. I think it’s pointless, so I thought I would save Warner Bros. a bit of failure by warning them of what will most likely happen if they continue in that vein.

It seems this is particularly still a problem for Asian and Asian-American actors. Do you see something like this happening with a role written for a black actor?

Oh, absolutely not. African-Americans have made enormous advances. There are a whole host of bankable stars who are African-American. Can you name one bankable Asian-American star? No. There isn’t. You have Denzel Washington, Samuel Jackson. A whole host of them. One can’t name a single Asian-American whose name you can take to the bank and get a project financed. We are making headways. I’m not a pessimist. We have made tremendous headways from the time I started in this business in 1957. Asian faces are part of the ensemble in many TV shows playing not roles that are specifically Asian, but playing doctors and detectives. Advances have been made, but we have still not caught up with the African-American achievements.

Why do you think there seems to be a reluctance to cast Asian-American actors in leading roles?

I don’t think it’s a reluctance, they just don’t know better. They have the experience of Shyamalan’s project, and I would think any savvy production company would learn from that. So I’m really baffled by the lack of learning from experience. Hollywood doesn’t like failures, and there’s a string of failures in the past. With this effort, I’m trying to warn them of what is likely to happen with this Akira project.

What would you ideally like to see happen with the Akira adaptation?

Well, ideally, they should do it properly and get Asian-American actors cast in those roles. In the adaptation they would of course be speaking in English and understandable to a popular American audience. That’s the whole point. They bought a project that is popular and enormously loved by its fans, and if they want the fan following to support the film, that’s the way you do it.

And all we have to say that is BRAVO! Well-said, sir!

We can't commend him enough for speaking up! It seems so FOOLISH that they would cast a story that's so fundamentally Asian with white actors - ESPECIALLY when it's been proven to bring about box office and critical failure, as well as displease the fans!

How can they expect to stay true to the integrity of the story?!

Hopefully Warner Bros. will see George's very valid and logical points, and they'll reconsider how they want to cast it!

Our fingers are crossed!

[Image via WENN.]

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50 comments to “George Takei Advises Warner Bros. Against 'Whitewashing' Akira Movie!”

  1. 1

    While I agree with most of what he is saying, he didn't bother to get some of his facts straight. "The same thing happened with M. Night Shyamalan. He cast his project [The Last Airbender] with non-Asians and it’s an Asian story, and the film flopped." Although it had a distinct anime influence, Avatar was a nick created AMERICAN show. The characters cast in the ethicities are spot on from the show to the movie.

  2. 2

    I totally agreed what he said. Take "Dragon Ball Z" for example, it flopped big time. Such a disappointment! I mean, the storyline was written and played by asian characters why would you even make that switch to white characters playing in asian movies/storyline? doesn't make sense! *SMH*

  3. 3

    I am a BIG manga fan so i understand were he's coming from. I mean they just fucked avatar up!! Zuko was so badly cast that its not even funny. Instead of a movie filled with look alikes with bad acting how about getting real asians that can act!! Like why was the twilight guy even in the movie?!

  4. 4

    sound of crickets chirping

  5. 5

    Re: The Other Lindsanity – OHHH your stupid please shut up when you DONT know what your talking about Avatar originated as a manga, then turn into an anime which was TRANSLATED into an american tv show.
    Re: xbabytam – and ive been a fan of DBZ since i was a kid so watching that movie just bought me to tears!!

  6. 6

    I respect what he's saying but it's not completely true. I can name two bankable hollywood asian stars- Jackie Chan and Jett Li. What's so great about america is the diversity and there have been great strides for asian actors. He's right, besides for the Joy Luck Club and few other movies you don't see an entire asian cast in american movies. He's also very wrong about the anime fanbase in America. Yes, many minorities love anime, but so do many white americans. Many animes feature various ethnicities. I definately think that they should make a few anime turned movies with predominately asian cast members but I feel if they make all future animes with mainly asian cast members it's going to alienate american audiences, who are mainly white. I definately want to give him props for standing up for the asian american community and urging hollywood execs to cast more asian actors. I agree. Asian children should be able to watch movies and have role models from their own ethnicity. But I also feel it shouldn't just stop with making sure all of the ethnicities are properly represented. All types of American citizens should be represented- which include ones that aren't size two or have perfect features.

  7. 7

    I totally agree! great post perez!

  8. 8

    Jett Li and Jackie Chan are two bankable asian actors. Many animes feature non-asian characters. I agree that there should be more predominately asian casts but not all of the future anime turned movies should be predominately asian, that would alienate american audiences that are predominately white. His statement about the audience of animes and manga in the united states being primarily asian or other ethnicities besides white is erroenous, there are many white american fans of animes. I think that he has a lot of valid points and diversity should definately be encouraged and championed.

  9. 9

    Stop being racist George. Maybe George should be a little more color blind. It doesnt matter the race of an actor, just that they did a good job

  10. 10

    I don't think asian actors could have saved Last Airbender, the dialogue was terrible no matter who was saying it.

  11. 11

    Avatar didn't flop because of the cast, it flopped because M Night kills everything he touches.

  12. 12

    Re: pie107 – Avatar did NOT originate as a manga. There was a graphic novel made AFTER the show aired. The show was conceived/created/written/designed in the US by a couple of American dudes and animations were outsourced to a Korean studio.

    That said, the world, characters and mythology are heavily based on Asian cultures, so yes the characters are "Asian" in a way.

    In a way part of what made The Last Airbender bad was the casting choices. The actor for Aang was the worst of the bunch. The biggest problem, IMO, is that they tried to squeeze too much into a 2 or so hour flick. It was a 10 hour story cut to less than half. They should have just split each season into 2 movies.

  13. 13

    I don't care who they cast in the lead role so long as they do justice to the original…unfortunately hollywood is developing a track record for completely fucking up anime to live action movies but I'm hoping for the best.

  14. 14

    Re: jauckandyippe – you're right, Jett Li and Jackie Chan are bankable asian actors, but they are not american-asian actors. Big difference. Besides, both are known for their martial arts and not for their great acting! Many animes do feature non-asians, however, Akira doesn't.

    But yeh, totally agree with what he said!

  15. 15

    I agree with everything he said. I'm a huge fan of the manga and anime of Akira and just hearing about the changes makes me cringe. I refuse to even acknowledge it when it's released.

  16. 16

    Re: jauckandyippe – George said Asian-American. While Jackie Chan and Jet Li have had success in America, they are not Asian-American. The only name that comes to mind who might count as a really bankable Asian-American is Keanu Reeves, but he's only half Asian (and not cast as such) and he's Canadian. There are others out there (Margaret Cho, B.D.Wong etc.) who have had some success but not at the level of being able to carry a movie. SO George has some valid points.

  17. 17

    If he wants to cast certain characters, he should buy a studio and take the risks associated with his choices. If he just wants to complain….I'm not listening.

  18. 18

    I think that The Last Airbender flopped because the movie sucked, not because they didn't star Asian Americans in the leading roles.

  19. 19

    Re: Cassandra Richard – Avatar flopped?

  20. 20

    agree with him TOTALLY!

  21. 21

    Didn't you say the exact opposite when an African American was cast in a white role in Thor???

  22. 22

    #1 Jackie Chan is a bankable Asian star… and
    #2 white people are cast in historically Black roles ALL the time…
    Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra? The Queen of a country in AFRICA? Angelina Jolie just played a light skinned black woman in 'A Mighty Heart' as if there aren't enough biracial black actresses in Hollywood…

    Hollywood is racist in general.

  23. 23

    Re: Scatter – Avatar as in, the Last Airbender.

  24. 24

    Re: Mad Dog – I'm glad I'm not the only person who wanted to bring that up.

    Perez, you're a fucking hypocrite. Idris Elba or whatever his name is was cast in a role that should have been white, and when people got upset, you told them to stop being racist. God, stop being so wishy-washy on every topic and stick to a side already.

  25. 25

    Re: ClubVIPlister – Cleopatra was Greek.

  26. 26

    If you don't want this shit to happen anymore, than you gotta stop selling the film right to American studios, like Warner. This best way to have a film like this made is to have it independently produced and then sell the DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS of the final work to one of the major (or minor) US studios. If none want to bite, fuck them and leave it in the can until enough pressure builds up for a major release. You don't have to completely sell out to have a film put together the right way.

  27. 27

    Re: The Other Lindsanity – Aang is a Chinese name. All of the characters from Avatar were set to live in a world that would be set in China around 400 years ago. They ALL had Chinese names, drank tea, wore clothes that deeply resemble the costumes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and all practiced a form of Kung Fu. In one of the episodes where the character Katara boards a pirate ship and looks at water scroll. It is CLEARLY written in Chinese. M Night has really done an injustice to the Asian community and to the whole fanbase when he decided to cast Caucasian actors as the leads instead of trying to make sense of the material he wanted to create a film from.

  28. 28

    Neither Jackie Chan nor jet Li are Asian American. What George meant to say is that there isn't a single Asian American star and he is right. Hollywood loves to marginalize Asian Americans and still to this day cast stereotypical roles for Asian Males. This is America and not Asia. Asian Americans have been in this country for over 200 years. There has been an Asian American in every American war since the American civil war so why is it that there are still few roles for Asian Americans in this country?

  29. 29

    Neither Jet Li nor Jackie Chan are Asian Americans. This is America and Asian AMERICANS need to be represented just like black Americans, Hispanic Americans and Gay Americans. Why would having an All Asian American cast in a movie alienate Americans? We are Americans after all. There are Asian American soldiers who serve and die for this country so why the hell would an All American cast of Asian Americans alienate Americans. Does an entire cast of African American actors alienate Americans? What about an all entire cast of Eropean American cast which is what white people in this country are. If they don't alienate Americans then why should an all Asian American cast? Unfortunately, not all types of Americans are represented fairly in the media because the racist media still marginalize Asian Americans. If we die for this country we should be represented fairly.

  30. 30

    Neither Jet Li nor Jackie Chan are Asian American actors. The RACIST Hollywood studios love to marginalize Asian Americans, They made it a point to keep us out of the industry. Bruce Lee who was born in American and was an Asian American had to go to Asia to become a star. Even then the powers that be in the media killed him and his son to keep us out of the indusrty. This is a raicst and shaddy industry. Asian Americans die for this country everyday in the military and yet we are marginalized. it's time to stop this BS. Asian Americans are AMERICANS. There is NO reason why Americans should be alienated seeingt their own country men because they don't have a problem seeing an entire cast of African Americans or European Americans (white people). Stop the BS.

  31. 31

    George is doing what all Americans should do and make Hollywood indclude Asian Americans as blacks have done with the NAACP as Gays have done with GLAAD and as Hispanic Americans are now doing with La Raza. hjollywood is not built on talen. It is built on a racist policy that keeps certain races out until they're made to include them. This is the absolute truth.

  32. 32

    Its a shame that hollywood make it a point these days to divide Asian Americans and continue to sterotype them. Asian Americans have fought and died for this country for over 200 years and its discusting that there isnt a single Asian American cast show. Black Americans at least have the cosby show and a whole load of black cast shows thanks to jesse Jackson and the NAACP. Hispanic Americans have the George Lopez show and Gay Americans have their all cast show yet Asian Americans don't even get an Asian American show?

  33. 33

    This is complete BS. European Americans (white people) in this country have most of the all white cast shows so it's time for Asian AMERICANS to get their peice of the pie. If an American regardless of color has a problem with an all Asian AMERICAN show then there is a problem with Americans in total. Asian American soldiers die in the front lines everyday for this country and yet these idiots in here want to say the Jacki Chan and Jet Li both of whom don't speak English too well and are NOT Asian Americans and contnue to play out the stereopypes that Hollywood want Asian males to play represent us? That's like saying some stars from Germany and Russia represent European American (white people) in this country. Is the racist Clint Eastwood (Grand Torrino) European or European American? He's European American Jackass. BTW, it's really time this RACIST IDIOT stop making movies about the Asian American immigrant Experince. We've been in this country for over 200 years. Maybe Clint should do movies about the Eruopean American immigrant experience since Russians and European people are immigrating to this country everyday. Don't try to Short change us on our American experince because alot of us have died and scarifice in every American war since the American civil war for this. Hell, we've probably been here longer than alot of the other European Ethnic groups and helped build this country more. Where the hell would this couintry be without the railroads?

  34. 34

    Re: The Other Lindsanity – I disagree with this..The fire nation in the show were clearly Asian but were shown as dark skinned in the movie.

  35. 35

    Re: Scatter – yeah exactly. it was crap, same as DBZ.

  36. @v@ says – reply to this


    Movie makers have characteristically tried to tailor stories to appeal to their market, when that market is North America. They want their audience to identify with the characters. I really don't think it's anti anyone. Takei has his points, and there IS a massive Asian market, and it's larger than North America. I guess it depends who they're marketing the movie to. Ha. Once they're set up, run the scenes with two sets of actors for each market? Might or might not be doable.

  37. 37

    Hey, Hollywood -
    This was a dumb idea even without considering the whole actor-racial-discrimination card. You're trying to pull in Asian content that have already gained a cult following globally (and domestically, to some degree) and but are relatively unknown to the mainstream American audience enough so that it seems like you're bringing something fresh and innovative to the plate. Especially after you've gone out of your way to rewrite it in a way that you think will appeal to American audiences. I get that. But the way you're going about it is all wrong… and it's not going to work. First off, are you trying to appeal to people who have never heard the story before, or are you trying to appeal to the fans? Because completely disrespecting and degrading the original content, the characters, and the major themes of the work will only anger and alienate the fans that otherwise would have raked you major box office money the way the LOTR franchise did for Peter Jackson (because he respected the source material). Why fix something that isn't broke?

  38. 38

    .. this is like that disaster-of-a-Dragonball-film all over again. It would have EASILY been been a WORLDWIDE sensation if they had bothered to actually do the franchise justice rather than make quick money. Honestly, any new 'American' fans gained (and there were none) did not make up for all the potential old fans it lost. The fans who love Akira for what it is are already THERE. Utilize them. Be respectful towards the original content. That isn't to say you can't make new additions or changes. But do it in a way that makes sense. Akira isn't just any story, it's also very deeply Japanese at the roots - even disregarding the characters' names and appearances - the whole underlying psyche is that of the Japanese youth in the post-war period after the nuclear bombing. Tell me how the very R-rated themes (I'm talking about deep and dark messages, not just the violence) that made the original film great are going to translate into a supposedly PG-13 tween movie.

  39. 39

    Re: The Other Lindsanity – It doesn't matter that Avatar is a western show, the fact is is that it was heavily steeped in Asian culture. That you've got Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan and Inuits cast as all white people is the problem (voice actors being white totally doesn't count, either). It'd be like re-adapting The Godfather with Mexicans or something.

  40. 40

    Re: liljinx1000 – I thought Keanu Reeves was American Indian (Sorry don't know the names of any Canadian tibes). I think Jennifer & Meg Tilly are the same ethnicity as him. Re: ClubVIPlister – Uh…yeah! I'm Ethiopian American and Marianne Pear is darker skinned than I am.Re: Mad Dog – I wish all of the racists complaining about Thor would pick up a book because their is an African/Black God in Norse Myth as there are in most European Myths.

  41. 41

    Re: Lauren O – Marianne Pearl. Don't know why the l skipped.

  42. 42

    Re: jauckandyippe – I will say I agree with you. There are some Asian actors that spring to mind but they are all type cast into these martial arts or villian type movie roles (i.e. Lucy Lui, Michelle Yeoh). But to say that Blacks have made great strides I think is laughable. Cleopatra is being remade… you know the movie about the Queen of ancient Egypt… Cleopatra was played by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s and is being played by Angelina Jolie today.

  43. 43

    Asian Americans are AMERICANS so if they cast Asian American actors they are tailoring the film to AMERICANS. Asian Americans have been in this country for over 200 years. there's no reason why the cast shouldn't be Asian Americans because it's an American film. Theres really no need for this kind of racism in the industry in this day and age. Asian Americans are Americans and have fought in every American war since the American civil war. Asian American soldiers have come back in caskets draped in the US flag. it's time that Asian Americans who are Americans get their share of representation in the media. If America has a problem with seeing Asian Americans in the media then America is still a very racist country. This isn't Europe. You don't need to whitewash all the characters.

  44. 44

    Michelle Yeoh is not an ASIAN AMERICAN. People really need to start understanding the amount of sacrifice that Asian Americans have given to this country and stop foriegnizing us like Hollywood keeps on doing. Asian American soldiers did not die for this country just so Hollywood can continuously make us nonAmericans. We've been here for 200 years for Christ sake. It's time they start recognizing our contributions. Kung Fu the TV series should have had Bruce Lee (an Asian American) as the main character and Clint Eastwood needs to stop doing racist films like Grand Torino. What he should have do was honor the American Nesie US soldiers who sacrificed for this country even when their country interned their families. Apparently, the racist person that he is can't get over his racism to do a movie like that.

  45. 45

    Egyptians are arabs.

  46. 46

    Re: MVPnis – If a film is based on well-known source material it should always try and be as faithful to the original as possible. Fair enough, cast who you want if a character's race/ethnic background is unknown or ambiguous but if it's specifically stated it seems stupid to deliberately go against it.

  47. 47

    I totally agree. It's not being racist but it's being 'faithful' to the orginal. Anime and manga in Asia is like comic books and cartoons in the US. The audience were not for Caucasians. It just so happened that anime and manga 'clicked' and became popular worldwide. But it WAS NEVER for that purpose. What im trying to say, if the role calls for African actors, give it to African actors. If it's about an Asian character, give it to Asian actors. Not just for Americans…if it's about German, get a German actor. There should be no doing things halfway. It's an insult to the author. Make it spot on or none at all.

  48. 48


  49. 49

    Where was George when Infernal Affairs was made into The Departed?

    Adaptations (Isn't the film's setting being revised to "Neo New York"?) can be successful regardless of ethnic origin.

    Sadly, though, if WB casts either of the rumored leads, I think I'll lose all interest.

  50. 50

    Re: The Other Lindsanity
    Semantics, it may have not been Asian in origin but it was still an Asian story