Thursday, July 13, 2017

Three upcoming movies will feature all-Asian casts

Who can fill these iconic roles? Jasmine, right, looking for Mr. Right - Aladdin.

THREE HOLLYWOOD MOVIES in various stages of production are looking for all-Asian casts.

It took 25 years since the Joy Luck Club before Hollywood had the guts to again cast an all-Asian cast for the movie version of Crazy Rich Asians. The extensive casting hunt was a long-drawn out effort because the producers were unable to find the right actors in the historic all-Asian cast. 

Flash forward to 2017: The Disney live-action productions of Aladdin and Mulan are also seeking all-Asian casts. Sony is also doing the story of woman warrior Mulan with an all-Chinese cast. You would think that we're entering a golden period for Asian actors but all three productions are facing the same problem as Crazy Rich Asians. 

Disney is reportedly trying very hard to avoid the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag or be accused of whitewashing or yellow face, or in the case of Aladdin, brown face. Mulan is set in ancient China and Aladdin in a mythical kingdom in the Middle-east or Southern Asia.

Exacerbating the search, Aladdin is a musical and Mulan, still in pre-productioin planning, might very well become a musical. The box-office success of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast have prompted the studio to look on the live-action projects as musicals. The animated versions of both films had catchy and romantic songs and music associated with them. 

So the actors must not only look the part, but they have to be able to sing or at least carry a tune. Dancing would be a plus.

Aladdiin, further along in production than Mulan, has reportedly had over 2000 actor audition for the two leads of Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. Will Smith has already signed on for the pivotal role of the Ginie. Guy Ritchie is the director.

Some well-known names - Dev Patel and Riz Ahmed - have auditioned but apparently, haven't locked down the role. Ritchie is reportedly looking for a fresh faces to play Jasimin and Aladdin.

Mulan Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) said that her project will be a "girly martial arts extravaganza." That was initially interpreted that her Mulan would not be a musical. Since she made that statement, she has walked back on it a bit. Apparently, the studio is still leaning towards incorporating the music from the animated version into the live-action remake.
She is encountering the same casting problem that faced CRA director Jon Chu and Aladdin's Ritchie. Where are all the actors of Asian descent? The abilityi to speak English eliminates a wide swath of popular actors based in Asia.

Sony is also doing its own version of Mulan. Financed by Chinese - that will also feature an all-Chinese cast and directed by Alex Graves. No cast announcements have been made on that production.

Disney is having trouble finding Asian actors for its live action remake of Mulan. Really?

The motion picture industry is treading lightly on the issue of culturally appropriate casting. Three of four recent productions that had casting controversies tanked at the box office after a social media groundswell of criticism, most of which originated from the Internet savvy Asian/American community.

RELATED: Hollywood has a mostly black and white view of America
Casting bankable stars such as Matt Damon as lead in The Great Wall of China, Emma Stone cast as a hapa in Aloha and Scarlett Johansson as Motoku Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell failed to overcome the whitewashing protests. They lost money in U.S. ticket sales.

Only Dr. Strange, featuring Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, managed to break even at the box office. However, it should be noted, all of the aforementioned films did well enough in the Asian market to make up for the disappointing showing at the box office in the U.S. 

With that economic argument to justify those casting failures thrown out the window, coupled with recent studies that show diverse casting increases the chances of box office success, Hollywood has had to reconsider its traditional casting choices.

Prior to the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite controversy that ripped off the institutional racism in Hollywood motion pictures and television, a study by the University of Southern California's  Annenberg School of Communications, found that over half of the 400 films and television series studied did not feature an Asian person in a speaking role at all. And most of the roles featuring Asians perpetuated stereotypes.

Asian and Asian/American actors must be breaking down the doors for an audition for these movies. Yet, all three can't find the right actors. Really?

Give Hollywood a helping hand: Who would you cast in these movies?