Anghus Houvouras on Ed Skrein’s decision to walk away from the Hellboy reboot following whitewashing criticism…
That’s what I said out loud when I read Ed Skrein’s statement about why he was walking away from the Hellboy reboot. If you hadn’t already heard, Skrein had been cast as Ben Daimio in the Hellboy reboot currently in pre-production. Like many characters adapted from comics, the ethnicity had been altered to accommodate an actor. Skrein stated that this was a piece of information he had been unaware of when accepting the role. After cries of ‘whitewashing’ from Social Justice Warriors and comic fans, Skrein looked into the issue and made an educated decision to walk away from the film.
Classy move, Ed Skrein.
The diversity argument in Hollywood has been around a while. It hardly takes a Rhodes Scholar or a MacArthur Grant winner to see that movie studios are a very white, very male dominated creative enterprise. Small steps are being made, but the cold hard truth is that the entertainment industry has made it abundantly clear that they will not change the color or gender of their alabaster money-making baby until it becomes no longer fiscally sound to do so.
And it will never change due to outside pressure. All the online petitions, tweets and social media indignation will do nothing to solve this problem. Everyone seemed mad as hell that Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange. $677 million dollars later the accountants over at Marvel Studios are like ‘What’s all this fuss about?’
2017 has been a good year for discussions about race, gender and diversity in Hollywood. Wonder Woman was the blockbuster, water cooler film of the summer. And in spite of its success, you had directors like Jordan Vogt-Roberts and James Cameron trying to mansplain to Patty Jenkins why the film wasn’t the four quadrant, socially relevant blockbuster that the rest of the world was praising.
I’ll bet ten years from now we’ll still be discussing Wonder Woman as a watershed moment in Hollywood’s continuing struggle for equality. However, I think Ed Skrein’s move is the real game changer. Change comes from within. The studio heads and creative parties making big budget cinema don’t seem all that concerned with making bold, inclusive strides. Maybe the revolution has to start with the actors.
I’m extremely impressed with Ed Skrein for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s never easy being one of the first to step forward. Taking a stand is not something frequently rewarded in a town like Hollywood where falling in line is the status quo. Second, the guy turned down a steady paycheck on principle. Ed Skrein is a talented guy, but he’s hardly Hollywood A-List royalty. It’s not like there a dozen other parts waiting for him when he walks away from a movie like Hellboy. In fact, making this kind of very public statement could actually cost him work. This declaration is the most public thing Ed Skrein has ever done. For many, this will be the first time Skrein’s been brought up in conversation and attached to an issue that is candy coated in controversy.
It takes a lot of character for Skrein to make this extremely bold choice. It’s a level of bravery that has eluded a number of other performers in recent years who have gladly accepted parts they were in no way genetically predisposed to play. Emma Stone could have made a similar move by turning down a lead role in Aloha, but apparently she’d been just dying to play a Polynesian in spite of the absolute ridiculousness associated with that concept. Scarlett Johansson could have stepped away from Ghost in the Shell. In hindsight, I’m guessing she wishes she had.
Skrein’s decision could start something. This could be a snowball teetering on the precipice waiting for a push eventually gaining momentum that sees the performers actively working to help shape a more diverse and inclusive industry. If so, it won’t be the studios or the A-list actors that made this a reality. The same top talent that spends countless hours on awards shows each year screaming about the need for a more diverse Hollywood.
It’ll be the guy who played Francis in Deadpool.
It just goes to show you; it doesn’t matter who initiates change. It only matters that someone is brave enough to take the first step.
Well done, Ed Skrein.