13 Times Hollywood Made Totally Racist Castings Decisions
In the 2015 box office bomb, Stone's character Captian Allison Ng is written as being one quarter Chinese and one quarter Hawaiian. Many viewers of the film accused the filmmakers of whitewashing the cast, as Stone doesn't belong to either heritage. The director of the film, Cameron Crowe, released the following as a statement: "I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice."
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
The Geisha is an iconic figure in Japanese history and has cemented a special place in the country's culture throughout time. This 2005 film ran into a lot of controversy (particularly in Japan) when primarily Chinese or ethnic Chinese actresses such as Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh were cast in the main roles. It's a casting decision that many international audiences unfortunately overlooked, but it's an obvious misstep on the part of the filmmakers.
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi in the classic film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is just downright awful. Playing the Japanese neighbor of Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly, Rooney faked a bad accent and taped his eyelids to make them look a certain way. It's a prominent example of how insulting "yellow face" can be in older films.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
We all know the 2010 film "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" was basically a huge flop, but how much of that failure is due to its clearly racist casting choices? With the title explicitly saying that the protagonist is Persian, one would expect a Persian actor (or even an actor of SOME Middle Eastern descent) to assume the role. Instead, Hollywood sided with the star power of white American actor Jake Gyllenhaal instead. Also, his love interest in the film is an Iranian princess who is played by white British actress Gemma Arterton. Not okay.
The Last Airbender (2010)
Another movie that was a major flop both critically and commercially, "The Last Airbender" had a blatant disregard for any Inuit or Asian actors interested in starring in the film. The TV series heavily hints that the characters have Asian backgrounds, but Dev Patel was the only actor of Asian descent to appear in the film. All of the other protagonists and hero characters were played by white actors.
The Conqueror (1956)
The 1956 film is widely considered to be a major flop, but that still doesn't explain the nonsensical decision to cast American actor John Wayne as the famous Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan.
Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez is a character in "Highlander" who comes from an Egyptian background and assumes a Spanish identity in the film. Despite this, Scottish actor Sean Connery was cast in the role.
The high stakes drama "21" was based on a true story about MIT students who used their genius math skills to develop a card counting system to get thousands from Vegas casinos. However, despite the fact that the people who managed this feat in real life were all Asian-American, nearly the whole cast in the film adaptation is white. Two Asian-American actors were cast as sidekicks in the film, but the casting still does an injustice to the reality of this crazy story.
The Last Samurai (2003)
The 2003 historical drama garnered some criticism and ignited debate as to whether or not the story of Nathan Algren was racist or well-intentioned. Cruise's character is a shell-shocked veteran of the Civil and Indian Wars who comes into contact with samurai warriors. Controversy ensued over the glorified depiction of a white Westerner who can pick up ancient Japanese traditions in a matter of months (while most samurai train their entire lives). It's one of Cruise's more popular films, but that doesn't mean it isn't problematic from a historical viewpoint.
West Side Story (1961)
There's no denying that "West Side Story" is a masterpiece, but that doesn't mean that you can't raise an eyebrow at the casting of leading lady Natalie Wood. Wood is of Russian and Ukrainian ancestry, while her character Maria is a Puerto Rican living in New York. In fact, Wood had to apply dark bronzer while making the movie to convincingly portray the part.
Dragon Seed (1944)
The year was 1944, but that's still no excuse for casting so many white actors in Chinese roles. Katherine Hepburn plays Jade Tan, a Chinese villager who stands up to Japanese invaders. Hepburn surely had good intentions (in real life she supported many Chinese causes) but it's still pretty offensive from a modern perspective.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
Dreamboat Johnny Depp played a Native American in the infamous Disney flop, a film which unfortunately had many problems to begin with. As if miscasting a white actor in a distinctly Native American role wasn't bad enough, the film also perpetuated many Native American stereotypes. For example, Depp's character Tonto only talks in fragmented sentences, feels a strong connection with animals and wears many stereotypical headdresses.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Your opinion on "Tropic Thunder" will likely depend on how you feel about satire as a form of comedy. Downey Jr.'s character Kirk Lazarus is a white man who wears blackface and even undergoes surgery to become a black man. Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for the role that some viewed as satirical and others viewed as offensive. The film also drew criticism for its portrayal of individuals with special needs.