Cameras haven’t even begun to roll, but there’s already a hitch to the origin tale Pan, the Warner Bros. update to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. We recently reported the casting announcement of Oscar nominated actress Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) as Tiger Lily in Joe Wright’s upcoming film, and an online protest has started arguing the decision to cast a white woman as a Native American. Thousands have already signed the Care2 petition.
Whitewash casting in Hollywood movies is not a new thing – in fact it’s a very old thing. For instance, legend Katharine Hepburn once played a Chinese woman in the 1944 film Dragon Seed, Mickey Rooney infamously played a cartoonish Mr. Yanioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and Natalie Wood played the Puerto Rican Maria in the classic musical West Side Story (1960.) Even today, in a world discerned by a certain political correctness that wasn’t yet in place during the glory days of Hollywood, curious casting decisions have courted controversy. M. Night Shyamalan received a slew of comments when he cast white actors in his 2010 fantasy The Last Airbender, and several winced when Johnny Depp was announced to play Tonto in last years’ retelling of The Lone Ranger. Let’s not forget, either, that Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, and Aaron Paul are set to play Egyptians and Israelites in Ridley Scott’s Exodus this December.
Yet, Mara’s casting is catching the online ire in a different way, one that’s especially curious since the team behind the upcoming franchise hopeful touted they were looking for a diverse ensemble cast – there was even speculation that recent Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o was in contention for the same part. So far, Rooney joins white actors Hugh Jackman and Garrett Hedlund and Levi Miller in the film. Warner Bros. has yet to comment on the story. The film is expected to release on July 17, 2015.
The Care2 petition, which currently has 4,781 signatures attached, wrote:
Warner Bros. just announced Rooney Mara has been chosen to play the role of Tiger Lily, a Native American, in a Peter Pan adaptation. A statement by the studio was unapologetic, and said a black actress and a French actress were first considered for the role. This casting choice is particularly shameful for a children’s movie. Telling children their role models must all be white is unacceptable.
The studio statement mentioned, “The world being created is multi-racial/international – and a very different character than previously imagined.” Yet it stars Mara and two white guys – Hugh Jackman and Garrett Hedlund. Not so multi-racial after all, Warner Bros.
Tell Warner Bros. to stop casting white actors to play characters originally written as people of color!