Actor Ed Skrein left Lionsgate’s new Hellboy movie after fans’ concerns that his role was being “whitewashed” came to his attention.
On Aug. 21, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Skrein had joined the film to play Maj. Ben Daimio, who in the Hellboy comic book series is portrayed as Japanese American. Skrein is English, and his involvement led some to accuse Lionsgate of whitewashing — that is placing a white actor in a role originally meant for a person of color. Those concerns led to Skrein’s decision leave the film.
On Twitter, Skrein released a statement, which explained that if he chose to stay on he would be participating in a “worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the arts.”
“There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement and I must do what I feel is right,” Skrein said. “Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity.”
Lionsgate and Millennium Pictures producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin gave a joint statement supporting Skrein’s decision.
“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this,” the said. “We fully support his unselfish decision. It was not our intent to be insensitive to issues of authenticity and ethnicity, and we will look to recast the part with an actor more consistent with the character in the source material.”
Whitewashing has been a concern and source of criticism in some noteworthy works recently. Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johansson took backlash for their roles in Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell, respectively.
The Hellboy reboot is still on Lionsgate’s schedule. Stranger Things’ David Harbour will star as Hellboy. American Gods’ Ian McShane and Resident Evil’s Milla Jovovich are also aboard. Guillermo del Toro, the original movie’s director, is not involved and neither is Ron Perlman, Hellboy’s first actor.
During Motor City Comic Con, Perlman was more than happy to pass the torch to Harbour.
“David Harbour is a good dude, man,” Perlman said, as reported by DreadCentral. “I have nothing but love for that dude. I wish him nothing but the best when it comes to the retooling of Hellboy.”
The Hellboy reboot does not have a release date.