Director Neil Marshall's upcoming Hellboy reboot has experienced an interesting development process. Between Marshall's direction and David Harbour's casting in the lead role, there's plenty to get excited for, but there are also controversies -- which most recently involved the hiring of white Deadpool star Ed Skrein as (the traditionally Asian) Major Ben Daimio. The announcement caused online criticism based on the perceived trend of Hollywood "whitewashing" roles for people of color, and now Skrein has taken to Twitter to announce that he has stepped down from the role in response to the situation. The actor wrote:
Last week it was announced that I would be playing Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming HELLBOY reboot. I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage. There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement, and I must do what I feel is right.
The response to this decision seems to generally be positive, as Skrein has already received praise and support from several corners of the internet for stepping down. He apparently had no idea who Major Ben Daimio was when he signed on for the Hellboy reboot, and the quick backlash against his casting seems to have made him consider that he might not be the right choice for the character at this point. We've seen situations like this before, but it's interesting to note that this is one of the few high-profile instances in recent memory in which an actor has removed himself from a production in response to fan outcry.
This decision comes in the wake of several other whitewashing controversies that have bogged down numerous other productions in recent years. People complained when Scarlett Johannsson was hired for Ghost in the Shell and when Rooney Mara was cast as Tiger Lily in last year's Pan. Some fans appear to have grown increasingly frustrated with Hollywood's decisions to cast white actors in non-white roles. The general idea behind the Ben Daimio argument is there are a dearth of roles for Asian actors in Hollywood, and someone like Daimio represents an opportunity to add some diversity to the world of comic book adaptations.
Even Ed Skrein feels strongly about this particular situation, as he continued his statement and noted that he hopes his decision will have an effect on the practice, saying:
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 that we can help make equal representation in 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.
As the search for the new Ben Daimio ramps up, we will bring you any and all relevant Hellboy updates as they become available. For now, take a look at CinemaBlend's movie premiere guide for more details on this year's major theatrical releases!