While issues of diversity and inclusion and their representation in public have become ubiquitous in recent years, they are not new. The controversies are not related to it either. Evidence of this is that many famous actors and actresses have been widely criticized for interpreting roles that many viewers judged to be inadequate. From whitewashing to interpreting a character from a different genre, controversy is not uncommon in the world of cinema. We’ve listed 20 of them!
#1 Benedict Cumberbatch as All (Zoolander 2)
The character of All doesn’t appear for long, but he is played by a male actor and defines himself as a male while being non-binary.
#2 Emma Stone as Allison Ng (Welcome Back)
In Welcome Back (Aloha, in VO), Emma Stone plays Allison Ng, a woman of Chinese, Hawaiian, and Swedish descent. The actress has none of these real backgrounds.
#3 Eddie Redmayne as Lilie Elbe (the Danish girl)
This time it’s a cisgender actor who interprets the role of a Danish transgender painter who really existed. Eddie Redmayne later said it was a mistake and he would not play such a role again.
#4 Dakota Johnson as Madame Web
Dakota Johnson will play Madame Web in a new Sony spin-off based on characters from the Spider-Man comics. But some netizens are unhappy: the actress, unlike the character, is not blind.
#5 Gal Gadot as Cleopatra (Cleopatra)
The choice of an Israeli actress to portray the famous Egyptian queen has provoked many reactions. The 1963 film Cleopatra had caused a similar controversy because actress Elizabeth Taylor, who also played Cleopatra, had converted to Judaism.
#6 Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl (Beaten Heart)
Angelina Jolie plays Mariane Pearl, a real-life French journalist, in A Mighty Heart. Only this one is of Dutch-Jewish descent, Afro-Latino-Cuban and Chinese-Cuban ancestry, which is not the case with the actress.
#7 Johnny Depp as Tonto (Lone Ranger: Birth of a Hero)
Lone Ranger: Birth of a Hero was a critical and commercial failure, even sparking controversy for its main character: Tonto, a Comanche warrior. A role that, according to some, should not have been interpreted by a white American actor. Johnny Depp, on the other hand, states that he wants to emphasize the “Indians”.
#8 Jared Leto as Rayon (Dallas Buyers Club)
Once again, a cisgender actor (and singer) is causing controversy in the role of a transgender character. Far from being discouraged, he defends himself, claiming that anyone can play any role.
#9 Nat Wolff as de Light (Death Note)
The Japanese character of Light is portrayed by a white actor in the live-action adaptation of Death Note.
#10 Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince of Persia (prince of persia: the sands of time)
Rebelotte with the Prince of Persia played by a white American actor.
#11 Jodie Foster as Iris Steensma (Cab Driver)
In Taxi Driver, Jodie Foster plays the role of a young teenager who has to become a prostitute when the actress is only 12 years old. Her big sister also had to double her for some scenes that were too explicit.
#12 Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone (nina)
Nina Simone’s heirs did not agree with the choice of Dominican-American actress Zoe Saldana for the role of the famous jazz singer because the role required her to dye her skin black. She later said she regretted this film.
#13 Christian Bale as Moses (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
Touching on a central figure in monotheistic religions is already difficult, but the case of Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings is even more so: the prophet was probably not white, unlike Christian Bale. However, the greatest controversy stems from a statement he made that described him in particular as a “schizophrenic barbarian”. Ouch.
#14 Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez (Slang)
Based on the true story of CIA agent Tony Mendez, Argo presents him as Ben Affleck. Again, the fact that the actor isn’t of the same origin (Hispanic) as his character disappointed viewers.
#15 Tilda Swinton as The Elder (Doctor Strange)
In the comics, The Elder is described as an Asian character, in contrast to his interpreter in the MCU films.
#16 Ben Kingsley as Gandhi (gandhi)
British actor of Indian descent Ben Kingsley still has to wear makeup and darken his skin to interpret Gandhi. Despite the controversy, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
#17 Laurence Olivier as Othello (Othello)
The oldest case on this list features the black character from Shakespeare’s famous play Othello, played by a white actor who picks up an accent and wears a black male mask, in the 1952 film.
#18 Anne Hathaway as the Great Witch (Holy Witches)
Played by Anne Hathaway, the Great Witch only has four fingers on each of her hands. This condition is called ectrodactyly, but its portrayal was considered derogatory and the actress had to apologize on her social networks.
#19 Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell)
The live-action adaptation of the manga (1989) and then the animated film (1995) Americanized all of the main characters. Result: a white actress in the leading role who is supposed to play a cyborg with Asian features.
#20 Rachel Zegler as Snow White (Snow White and the 7…magic creatures?)
Finally the latest case. This time, some fans denounce “too much” diversity in the remake of the cult animated film, between the seven dwarfs who are no longer called dwarfs and a Snow White, portrayed by an actress of Colombian origin, Rachel Zegler.
Do you think most of these criticisms are justified? In any case, remember that the very principle of acting is to blend into the skin of your characters, whoever they are.