Ed Skrein has exited the “Hellboy” reboot following public outcry. His casting as Major Ben Daimio — an Asian character in the “Hellboy” graphic novels — reignited conversations about whitewashing that have long plagued Hollywood.
The “Deadpool” actor released a statement Monday on his social media accounts explaining why he dropped out of the project.
“It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people, and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the Arts. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately,” the actor 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. It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality.”
Skrein’s casting follows similar recent controversies in which white actors have been set for roles originally portrayed by people of Asian descent. Scarlett Johansson’s casting as a Japanese human-cyborg in “Ghost in the Shell” caused an uproar earlier this year, as did Tilda Swinton’s role as the Ancient One in “Doctor Strange” — a character depicted as an Asian male in the comic source material.
“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision,” Lionsgate, the studio behind the reboot, said in a statement. “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.”
The creator of the “Hellboy” comic book, Mike Mignola, thanked Skrein on Twitter. “Very nicely done,” he added.
The studio will now focus on re-casting the role of the former U.S. Marine. The film begins shooting this October and sources say Skrein’s departure won’t affect the start date.
David Harbour is playing the titular character in “Hellboy.” Neil Marshall is directing the movie, which also stars Ian McShane and Milla Jovovich.