Ed Skrein quits Hellboy reboot after whitewashing controversy

Deadpool actor Ed Skrein has quit the upcoming Hellboy reboot after his casting was met with controversy.

The 34-year-old British rapper turned actor, also known for a role in Game of Thrones, was set to play Major Ben Daimio in the latest adaptation of the cult comic series. But the news was met with an outcry as the character had been drawn as Asian and the move was seen as another example of a Hollywood whitewash.

“I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage,” Skrein wrote in a statement released on Instagram and Twitter. “There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement and I must do what I feel is right.”

In the same statement, Skrein explains that he has a “mixed heritage family” so is aware of the importance of representation within media.

“It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people and to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the arts,” he writes. “I feel it is important to honor and respect that.”

Hellboy producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin have since made a joint statement with backers Lionsgate and Millennium to add their support. “Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. 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.”

Skrein’s decision to leave the project arrives after a number of similar casting choices have led to upset, such as the choice to cast Tilda Swinton as Tibetan mentor the Ancient One in Doctor Strange and Scarlett Johansson leading manga adaptation Ghost in the Shell.

After the news of his initial casting was revealed, Hellboy executive producer Christa Campbell came under fire for angrily responding to those who were displeased with the news. In a now-deleted tweet, she wrote: “Someone comes and does a great audition to get the role. Stop projecting your own shit onto us. We are all one. We don’t see colours or race.”

The latest iteration of Hellboy will reboot the saga originally brought to the screen by Guillermo del Toro. The cast includes Stranger Things star David Harbour, Ian McShane and Milla Jovovich while The Descent’s Neil Marshall will direct. Skrein will next be seen in manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel, produced by James Cameron.

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