Dear Hollywood: Asians are Cool

Dear Hollywood,

It has come to my attention that a live-action version of Akira is being made (YAY!) starring white actors (BOO!).

Look, I don't have anything against white actors. I love them. But if you're going to adapt one of the most well-known (in America) anime movies of the past 20 years, AND you're going to give the characters Japanese names, shouldn't they also LOOK Japanese?

Now, I didn't say anything when you made Dragonball, and I had different problems with The Last Airbender. But this is getting ridiculous. From 2000-09, you released like 1,000 movies. Of those, 13 had Asian leads. There are 13.8 million Asian Americans in the US, and over half of those live in your state. I know they're not all computer programmers. Surely some of them are actors?

My friend Emmet asked me, quite appropriately, "Aside from Jet Li and Rain (Ninja Assassin), who would you have cast in Akira?"

My first answer was I didn't know. And I didn't know because YOU NEVER CAST ANY, HOLLYWOOD. Google wasn't a lot of help either (fair or not, I blame you again for that), but I managed to find/remember a few.

So here are some Asian American actors for you to cast in lead roles. If not in Akira, how about Ghost in the Shell, Escaflowne, or Evangelion? You know you're going to remake those eventually!

John Cho, most recently appeared as Sulu in the new Star Trek.

Sung Kang, appeared in Fast & Furious and War.

Ken Leung, appeared in Lost and X-Men 3.

Dante Basco, best known as the voice of Zuko on the good version of the Last Airbender, but I saw Take the Lead. He can act too.

And even though he's not American, I'd like to suggest Ken Watanabe for all your older Asian role needs. Because basically, I can't get enough of this guy.

So come on, Hollywood. Asians are cool! Can you please stop pretending America doesn't have any?

Your friend (for now),
Adam Heine

PS: These are just a few examples. I'm sure my friends will have more suggestions for you in the comments.

PPS: It's not directly related, but Keanu Reeves as Spike? Seriously?


Aurora Smith said...

haha agree

Elena Solodow said...

Bravo to this post! I don't know Akira, but I agree with your sentiment.

Tim said...

Good stuff, Adam.

About 5 years ago, I went to an "audition" for extras for Pirates of the Caribbean 3. The casting call was for "Asians and ugly people" (I'll let you figure out which I was going for) for the scenes in Singapore, or more pirates.

While I was in line, an indy producer gave me his card, all the while talking about how there weren't enough Asian leads in films and wondering if I'd be interested. Since I have no acting experience, I never called him back, but it shows that there are people aware of the problem.

Heidi W said...

Ha! Great post!

Asian actresses are cool too.

Michelle Yeoh
Ziyi Zhang

Adam Heine said...

Absolutely, Heidi! I didn't mean to ignore the actresses at all. It was just that the issue at hand was actors for Akira. But I'm sure Hollywood will give me lots of opportunities for an Asian American actress post in the future ;-)

Anonymous said...

Was it Dante Basco or his brother who played Rufio in "Hook"? Because that right there is an iconic role from my childhood moviewatching experience. Anyone who thinks Asian actors can't bring the charisma needs to go watch that movie and get schooled.

Marcy Bates said...

On the Dr. Horrrible Commentary, one of the writers sings a song "Nobody's Asian in the Movies" It's pretty funny. Here's the link.

karmyk said...

His acting isn't the greatest, but Daniel Henney needs more American film roles... and he grew up in the states, so English isn't an issue there. Can't say much about his acting skills, but he's done some Korean dramas, and while I don't have the patience to watch them, my female Asian friends who DO watch them are in love with him.

karmyk said...

(I honestly think it should just be redone as an animated film, though...)

Myrna Foster said...

Dante Basco did play Rufio, and he can definitely act. But I don't understand why they need big name actors. It's nice to see new people up on the screen every now and then.

I do wish they'd quit the whitewashing. Aside from being just wrong (and, in this case, ridiculous), some of us write characters that aren't white for plot related reasons.

Adam Heine said...

Thank you, Marcy, for that link. That's my favorite song from Commentary: The Musical. Honestly, I wish Maurissa had played Penny (nothing against Felicia Day, of course, as she was great).

And I was pretty stoked to discover Dante Basco was Rufio (I only learned it searching for images for this post). Hook was pretty formative for my early years too :-)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Ugh, this drives me crazy, too. They should look at some HK male actors. Most of them have excellent English. Maybe I'm biased, though. :)


Matthew MacNish said...

I can't believe I missed this, but I'll make a few points.

I can almost guarantee I'll never see this movie. Akira is my all time favorite animated film, and I KNOW Hollywood will ruin it.

That being said, Kaneda does not look that Asian in the original. I know he's Japanese, but he doesn't look nearly as Asian as say, Tetsuo.

Also, there are several other characters that look quite un-Asian. The general, several members of the council, and so on.

That doesn't mean they shouldn't cast Asian leads for a live action Akira, but it does mean (to me) that they probably shouldn't make this movie.

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh, and Ken Watanabe? Hell yes. Please put him in more movies. From the Last Samurai to Cirque du Freak, and many others, he rules.