8 White People Who Were Cast in Roles Intended for Ethnic Actors

Matt Dekneef

Following comments from a Noah co-screenwriter explaining why only white people were specifically cast in the biblical epic—his words: “…The race of the individuals don’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people…we’re trying to deal with [the] everyman”—it had us thinking about other instances where Hollywood usurped race when the original source material called for a minority actor.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia

Walt Disney Pictures

Regarding a story where the lead is a Persian prince, the studio decided to go with Jake Gyllenhaal instead of an Iranian actor.


Ben Affleck in Argo

Warner Bros.

The CIA agent that Argo is based on is Tony Mendez, and Ben Affleck clearly isn’t Hispanic.


Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger

Walt Disney Pictures

Any time a non-Native American person dresses up as a Native American, it’s bound to create controversy. As was the case with this Disney production which apparently felt Johnny was more suitable to realistically play an indigenous person than an actor who’s actually indigenous.


Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

It’s still in pre-production, but the casting of Rooney in the next Peter Pan film is likely to cause a similar backlash.


Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind

Universal Pictures

Jennifer Connelly’s character Alicia wasn’t white in the true story A Beautiful Mind is based on. John Nash’s wife was a woman from El Salvador, but apparently that wasn’t all that important when the story was adapted. Jennifer won an Oscar for this role, by the way.


Jim Sturgess in 21

Columbia Pictures

Also based on a true story, 21 tells the story of a group of predominately Asian American MIT and Harvard students who bested the casino gambling system. Except in the movie version, none of the developed characters were Asian. Producers even commented on the noticeable absence of minority actors by saying they didn’t have “access to any bankable Asian American actors.”


Justin Chatwin in Dragonball: Evolution

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The Japanese manga was adapted for a film in 2009, but the only thing they modeled after the original character was his hair.


Jackson Rathbone and Nicola Peltz in The Last Airbender

Paramount Pictures

Set in an Asian-influenced world with Chinese martial arts, the main characters of this ensemble cast included zero Asian actors.

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