‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ must show sensitivity toward casting

I have utter disdain for the whole whitewashing affair with “Ghost in the Shell.” Now I hear that the film’s producer has also gained the rights to remake yet another Japanese property, and I wanted to warn him before he tries anything foolish.

Variety reported June 27, that Steven Paul’s SP International Pictures will produce a live-action film, “Lone Wolf and Cub: Final Conflict,” a remake of the quintessentially Japanese tale of a samurai and his child by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. Given the controversy with “Ghost in the Shell” and its casting of Scarlett Johansson for what was a Japanese woman’s role, I’m more than wary of  Variety, citing Paul, reporting that “Lone Wolf and Cub” will feature “an essentially Japanese cast.” Even after Paul’s attempt to placate the questionable phrasing during an additional interview with Buzzfeed.com, I am extremely skeptical.

“I think [Variety was] just picking up that I said that we would probably shoot in Japan and probably have primarily Japanese actors in it,” he told Buzzfeed. “My initial instinct is that they will be primarily Japanese because they’re samurai, and the whole story is very, very Japanese in the sense of what they are,” he said.

So what role is Ken Watanabe playing? Don’t kid me. Are you going to cast him as Itto Ogami or not? I don’t mean to insult Watanabe — he’s an excellent actor — but he’s the only guy Hollywood goes to when they want a Japanese dude headlining their film.

Don’t. Don’t get Ken Watanabe. Get someone else. Find another Nikkei actor. No, not George Takei. Find some fresh blood. You better make this pleasantly surprising and not another “it’s not going to be that bad” PR line until the inevitable flop.

And another thing: Paul, speaking about “Ghost in the Shell,” told Buzzfeed: “They’re going to be very, very happy with it when they see what we’ve actually done with it, and I don’t think anybody’s going to be disappointed.”

The last time I heard that line was when Roland Emmerich made “Stonewall.” Folks complained that Emmerich’s rendition of the Stonewall Riot erased the central role queer people of color played in that chapter of history. That movie stunk to high hell.

I am wary of what direction “Lone Wolf and Cub” will take, and I’ll remain critical until proven otherwise.

Tomo Hirai is a Nichi Bei Weekly staff writer. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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