Spider-Man: Homecoming: Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn defends colourblind casting of Mary Jane

'For me, if a character's primary attribute is the colour of their skin, frankly, that character is shallow and suck's

Jack Shepherd
Monday 22 August 2016 09:45 BST

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On numerous occasions, comic-book characters’ race has been changed when adapted for the big screen, particularly when it comes to Marvel.

Already, we’ve seen Idris Elba play Heimdall in Thor, Michael B Jordan play the Human Torch in Fantastic Four, and now Zendaya is reportedly playing Peter Parker’s love interest, Mary Jane, in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

For each casting announcement, there has been online backlash from ‘fans’ of the original comics, many of whom take issue with the actors’ race.

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has spoken out against the backlash on Facebook; while decidedly not confirming Zendaya - best known for her early performances on Disney Channel shows - is playing MJ, he reasoned that race is not the reason she was chosen for the role but acting credentials.

James Gunn at the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere
James Gunn at the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere (Getty)

“For me, if a character's primary attribute - the thing that makes them iconic - is the colour of their skin, or their hair colour, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she'll work. And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ's primary physical characteristics - she's a tall, thin model - much more so than actresses have in the past.

“Whatever the case, if we're going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we're going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world. Perhaps we can be open to the idea that, although someone may not initially match how we personally conceive a character, we can be - and often are - happily surprised.”

Gunn also posted underneath one comment that “all of you people assuming that black actors are chosen because the studios want a black person in the role, as opposed to them being the best actor for the role, are kinda missing something. That's how it works sometimes, but not usually. Usually lots of people audition and if the best actor is not white, that's who gets cast.”

Meanwhile, the director recently confirmed that he was once offered work with DC but decided not to take on the venture: “I’ve talked before about which projects appeal to me the most if I was into making one, and it’s always Shazam and Metal Men and Swamp Thing and [Jonah] Hex and a few other DC IPs I’ve enjoyed for a great deal of my life.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming both come to cinemas next year.

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