Following on from the controversy surrounding the all-white casting of Exodus: Gods and Kings, legendary Star Trek actor and King of the Memes George Takei has spoken out against the proposed casting choices for the American adaptation of popular anime Akira.
It was reported by Deadline that the cast choices included Robert Pattinson (Twilight), Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man) and James McAvoy (X-Men: Days of Future Past) for Testuo and Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Chris Pine (Horrible Bosses 2), Joaquin Phoenix (Her) and Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits) for Kaneda.
“The manga and anime phenomenon is mostly white in this country,” he told The Advocate, speaking out against the casting. “It originated in Japan, and, of course, it has a huge Asian fan following. But it’s the multi-ethnic Americans who are fans of Akira and manga. The idea of buying the rights to do that and in fact change it seems rather pointless. If they’re going to do that, why don’t they do something original, because what they do is offend Asians, number 1; number 2, they offend the fans.”
“The same thing happened with M. Night Shyamalan,” he continues. “He cast [The Last Airbender] with non-Asians and it’s an Asian story, and the film flopped. I should think that they would learn from that, but I guess big studios go by rote, and the tradition in Hollywood has always been to buy a project, change it completely and flop with it. I think it’s pointless, so I thought I would save Warner Bros. a bit of failure by warning them of what will most likely happen if they continue in that vein.”
When asked about the difference between the politics behind African-American and Asian-American actors, Takei said that there is huge gap. “African-Americans have made enormous advances,” he said. “There are a whole host of bankable stars who are African-American. Can you name one bankable Asian-American star? No. There isn’t. You have Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson. A whole host of them. One can’t name a single Asian-American whose name you can take to the bank and get a project financed. We are making headways. I’m not a pessimist. We have made tremendous headways from the time I started in this business in 1957. Asian faces are part of the ensemble in many TV shows playing not roles that are specifically Asian, but playing doctors and detectives. Advances have been made, but we have still not caught up with the African-American achievements.”
“I don’t think it’s a reluctance, they just don’t know better,” he concludes.
Akira has been written by Steve Kloves (the Harry Potter franchise) and is being produced by Andrew Lazar, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran with Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop) in the director’s chair. Warner Bros and Legenday Pictures paid a reported 7-figure sum for the rights to adapt Akira.