After the recent outrage over casting Leonardo DiCaprio as Persian poet Rumi in a biopic, the trending hashtag on social media – #HollywoodWhitewashing – has resurfaced. Japanese actress Kaori Momoi of Memoirs of a Geisha fame has reportedly been roped in to play Scarlett Johansson’s mother in Ghost In The Shell, based on a Japanese Manga comic series.
While Momoi seemed happy to be cast as the mother of the American actress, the casting has been met with mixed reactions from all over, including Japan. In April, when Scarlett Johansson’s casting was announced, a petition was launched to replace the actress with a Japanese one. This petition fueled more debate over how Hollywood chose to ‘whitewash’ the industry instead of giving opportunities to actors of other ethnicities.
Producer of the film, Steven Paul, said that the film was essentially an international one, thereby distancing the film from its original Japanese roots. The Independent quotes him as saying “Ghost in the Shell was a very international story, and it wasn’t just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world. That’s why I say the international approach is the right approach to it,” in response to questions of Scarlett’s casting.
While fans responded with petitions and trending hashtags, California-based comic-book writer John Tsuei pointed out that Hollywood was missing the point considering Ghost In The Shell is a story tied to Japanese identity and history.
You can “Westernize” the story if you want, but at that point it is no longer Ghost In The Shell because the story is simply not Western.
— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
Meanwhile, Kaori Momoi said that acting was eventually about talent and not skin colour or race. “Compared to Japan, there is so much potential and recognition in the U.S. for independent films,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Other cast members of this cyborg-based film include American actor Michael Pitt, Danish actor Pilou Asbaek, and French actress Juliette Binoche. The film is slated to release in March next year.
Feature Image credit: Paramount Pictures’ official Twitter account