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'Cloud Atlas' Comes Under Fire For Not Casting an Asian Man In a Major Role

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire October 25, 2012 at 4:20PM

Who didn't see this coming? Back when the epic six-minute trailer for "Cloud Atlas" premiered in July, bloggers were quick to express their concern over the jarring makeup job done on lead Jim Sturgess, who featured prominently in the spot as an Asian male character in one of the film's many plotlines, this one set in a futuristic South Korea. With the film set to open wide on Friday, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans has publicly made their opinion known about the casting of multiple white male actors as Asians (Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant and James D'Arcy), and it's not pretty.
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Who didn't see this coming? Back when the epic six-minute trailer for "Cloud Atlas" premiered in July, bloggers were quick to express their concern over the jarring makeup job done on lead Jim Sturgess, who featured prominently in the spot as an Asian male character in one of the film's many plotlines, this one set in a futuristic South Korea. With the film set to open wide on Friday, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans has publicly made their opinion known about the casting of multiple white male actors as Asians (Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant and James D'Arcy), and it's not pretty.

"In the modern age of movie make up, it is disturbing to see poorly done Asian eye prosthetics to make Caucasian men look Asian," Guy Aoki, MANAA's founding president, said in a statement. "It appears that to turn white and black actors into Asian characters (black actor Keith David was also Asian in the 2144 story), the make-up artists believed they only had to change their eyes, not their facial structure and complexion."

READ MORE: Critical Consensus: B. Ruby Rich and Lisa Schwarzbaum on the Identity Politics of 'Cloud Atlas'

Lest you think that MANAA is just upset over what they believe to be a bad makeup job, Aoki stressed that the issue is deeper than that. Citing "Cloud Atlas" as a "missed great opportunity," Aoki lamented the filmmakers' decision to cast Sturgess as the lead in the 2014 storyline. "He’s the one who liberates [a clone played by actress] Doona Bae from her repressive life and encourages her to join the resistance against the government. It would have been a great, stereotype-busting role for an Asian American actor to play, as Asian American men aren’t allowed to be dynamic or heroic very often."

And some more food for thought: In their statement, MANAA made reference to one plotline concerning black slaves and how each slave was played by a black actor, to backup their claim that double standards were used. "You have to ask yourself: Would the directors have used blackface on a white actor...? I don’t think so: That would have outraged African American viewers. But badly done yellowface is still OK."

What's your take on MANAA's harsh criticisms? Are they warranted? [Source: THR]

This article is related to: News, Cloud Atlas, Jim Sturgess, Media Action Network for Asian Americans