Oh, come on, Hollywood.
Zach McGowan, a white actor, has been cast to lead Gabriel Robertson’s “Ni’ihau,” in a role based on a real-life Hawaiian island leader, Ben Kanahele, who saves a man who crash-lands on the island, according to Deadline.
He later discovers that the man is a Japanese pilot, who participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and ultimately kills the pilot.
The news comes in the midst of a nationwide conversation on Hollywood whitewashing of Asian Pacific roles, from Emma Stone in “Aloha” to Scarlett Johansson in the recently released “Ghost in the Shell,” which flopped in the box office in part due to its casting decision.
Robertson told Deadline that he was drawn to the story due to its “huge historical significance” and said it “plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy,” while Ken Petrie of 27 Ten Productions, who is also attached, said “there is a weight to be shouldered, and the material requires the utmost care and authenticity.”
As expected, online backlash has been swift:
— Jenny Yang 👲👲👲 (@jennyyangtv) May 9, 2017
— Cindy Chu (@iamcindychu) May 9, 2017
Today’s example of whitewashing is shocking. That’s a real person. A real person and you’re just going to erase who he is..
— Oliver Stark (@oliverstarkk) May 9, 2017
they’re making a movie about an incident used to justify Japanese internment and they cast a white guy as a Hawaiian https://t.co/RLpuMISItX
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) May 9, 2017
Literally EVERYONE in this story is Asian & Pacific Islander, from heroes to villains. WE CAN’T OWN OUR OWN HISTORY!https://t.co/yMD4Q1YsvP
— Jeff Yang (@originalspin) May 9, 2017
Correction/Update: We stated in an earlier version of this article that the Ni’ihau incident was “a catalyst of Executive Order 9066,” citing Deadline’s description of the film. Read Joseph Shoji Lachman’s guest post on Angry Asian Man on the error of that statement.