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‘Deadpool’ actor Ed Skrein exits ‘Hellboy’ due to whitewashing controversy

Just a week after Ed Skrein joined the cast of Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, the Deadpool actor announced his departure from the reboot film, citing the “whitewashing” issues brought up by his casting.

Skrein was initially tapped to play Major Ben Daimio, a military leader in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense and a major character in the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comic book series. In the comics, Daimio is the Japanese-American leader of a squad of Marines who later becomes the Field Team Commander for the BPRD.

In a post on Twitter, Skrein explained his reasons for exiting the project and indicated that he was unaware of Daimio’s original ethnicity when he accepted the role.

— Ed Skrein (@edskrein) August 28, 2017

The issue of whitewashing — in which movie studios cast white actors to play non-white characters (fictional or otherwise) — has become a hot-button topic in recent years.

Most recently, Marvel Studios came under fire for casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, a character typically depicted as a Himalayan monk, in Doctor Strange. Other frequently cited examples of this trend include the casting of Johnny Depp as the Native-American character Tonto in 2013’s The Lone Ranger, the ensemble cast of white actors featured in 2016’s Gods of Egypt, and the decision for Scarlett Johansson play the lead role of Major Motoko Kusanagi in 2017’s live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell.

In his statement on leaving the role, Skrein indicated that he hoped his departure would allow the role of Daimio to be “cast appropriately” and that to stay on the project 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,” Skrein said.

Lionsgate, the studio behind Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, released its own statement in the wake of Skrein’s departure.

“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this,” the statement says. “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.”

With production on Rise of the Blood Queen expected to begin soon, another actor will likely be cast as Daimio in the near future.

The cast of Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen includes Stranger Things actor David Harbour as the franchise’s titular, demonic hero, as well as Deadwood and American Gods actor Ian McShane as Hellboy’s adoptive father, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, and Resident Evil franchise star Milla Jovovich as the Blood Queen. The film will be directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent, Game of Thrones) from a script penned by Andrew Cosby (Eureka), Christopher Golden, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

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