Scarlett Johansson being cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi in Paramount’s adaptation of Ghost in the Shell has courted controversy.
Many have accused the studio of ‘whitewashing’, including both social media users and Hollywood actors, yet there has been little comment from those in Japan.
The manga series, written by Masamune Shirow, was originally published in 1989 by Kodansha. It is Kodansha which owns the intellectual property, having licensed it to Mamoru Oshii for the 1995 animated film, and now for the Hollywood remake.
Commenting on the controversy, Sam Yoshiba, director of international business for Kodansha, told The Hollywood Reporter: "Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast. She has the cyberpunk feel.
“We never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place. This is a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world."
Yoshiba added that he had visited the film’s set in New Zealand and was ‘impressed by the respect being shown for the source material’.
Hollywood whitewashing controversies
Hollywood whitewashing controversies
1/11 Scarlett Johansson cast as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell
Blonde, white US actress Scarlett Johansson was announced to be playing the clearly Japanese character Motoko Kusanagi in Hollywood's Ghost in the Shell remake, much to the dismay of Asian film fans
2/11 Tilda Swinton cast as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange
Marvel sparked outrage when Anglo-Scottish actress Tilda Swinton was cast as Tibetan mystic The Ancient One alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange
Zoe Saldana was criticised for 'blacking up' to play the considerably darker-skinned soul singer Nina Simone in Nina
4/11 Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Prince of Persia
The half Jewish, quarter Swedish actor was cast to play a Middle Eastern Prince in Disney's 2010 film
5/11 Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
Mara was been cast in the role of American Indian Tiger Lily, sparking an online protest from angry film fans
6/11 Christian Bale plays Moses in Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings
Ridley Scott claimed he would never cast 'Mohammed so-and-so from such-and-such a country' in a lead role in his Biblical epic, and went on to cast an entirely white cast instead
7/11 Jim Caveziel plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ
Catholic star Mel Gibson chose to cast a Caucasian American actor in the role of Jesus for his controversial film
8/11 Micky Rooney plays a Japanese neighbour in Breakfast at Tiffany's
Who better to play Holly Golightly's Japanese neighbour IY Yunoishi than American actor Mick Rooney. At least Hollywood has come some way since 1961
9/11 Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo
Ben Affleck became the subject of a few editorials in Latin American newspapers for casting himself (an American with English, Irish, Scottish and Swiss ancestry) as a Mexican CIA operative
10/11 Jennifer Connelly plays Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind
Alicia Lopez-Harrison de Lardé was a naturalised US citizen from El Salvador, but was played by an actress of Jewish, Irish and Norwegian descent
11/11 Chinese actresses cast in Memoirs of a Geisha
What better way to alienate Japanese cinemagoers than to cast three Chinese actresses in the lead roles in a film about Japanese culture
The report also notes how many Japanese manga fans are not phased by the casting, with one saying: “If you want a Japanese cast, then a Japanese company should make the film in Japan.”
Another fan noted how if they had cast an 'Asian-looking' actress things could have been a lot worse: "It's a shame they didn't choose a Japanese person to tell such an interesting story. But at least they didn't cast a Chinese actress like they did in Memoirs of a Geisha.
“[Zhang Ziyi] actually did an amazing job, but it was like, really? Again, can't they find a Japanese actress?”
Recently, comic writer Jon Tsuei criticised the casting, describing Ghost in the Shell as a 'fundamentally Japanese story’. “You can ‘Westernise’ the story if you want, but at that point it is no longer Ghost In the Shell because the story is simply not Western,” he wrote on Twitter.
Ghost in the Shell hits UK cinemas on 31 March 2017.
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