Ed Skrein has walked away from his role as Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming Hellboy reboot following the whitewashing controversy that originally greeted his casting.
The 34-year-old actor was only cast in the film last week, but the ensuing debate and outcry over whether he should play the Daimio, who is Asian in the comics, provoked him to drop out. Ed Skrein took to Twitter to make the announcement, as he insisted that the “representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family.”
The actor also 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.”
“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. I feel it is important to honor and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.”
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“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 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.”
Hollywood has been beset with whitewashing controversy in recent years, with Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton’s roles in Ghost In The Shell and Doctor Strange being met with particular criticism. Ed Skrein is the first actor to leave such a big project after receiving such scorn, and his decision has almost unanimously been praised.
Hellboy’s producers Larry Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Millennium and Lionsgate also released a joint statement backing Ed Skrein’s 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.”
Whoever is cast as Skrein’s replacement will be joining David Harbour, Ian McShane and Milla Jovovich in Neill Marshall’s Hellboy reboot, which will be released in 2018.