Like a lot of movies made in the last year, “Death Note” has faced criticism for whitewashing its source material. The upcoming Netflix drama is based on a Japanese manga and, not unlike “Ghost in the Shell,” has changed Japanese characters into American ones: Nat Wolff plays Light Turner (the updated version of Light Yagami), while Margaret Qualley is Mia Sutton (Misa Amane).
Director Adam Wingard addressed those claims to Vulture, saying that his take on “Death Note” isn’t “just taking a character and trying to say a white kid is a Japanese kid. It is a whole new thing. The characters are all very different and it is a different kind of experience all together.”
Wingard, who also directed “You’re Next” and “Blair Witch,” got defensive about the same subject a couple months back: “Just clearing up misconceptions.No one has seen the film outside of 2 test screenings,” he tweeted. “Criticisms at this point are based on assumptions.”
Two of the film’s producers spoke up in defense of “Death Note” as well. “I think we got the right actors for the parts that were written,” said Roy Lee, whose prior credits include “The Departed” and “The Ring.” “We didn’t look at race as a factor. We just did the version that was set in the U.S. There are remakes of U.S. movies like ‘Sideways’ in Japan, but there was never a thought for them to bring in American actors to play the [characters] in the Japanese remake.”
“The whole idea of whitewashing is putting white people in roles that were meant to be a different race. But this wasn’t specifically a racially bound story, because it was set in America,” added Masi Oka, late of “Heroes.” “Anyone could have played that title role, whether it was white, African-American, Latino-American, or Asian-American. Anyone could have played that role.” Read their full comments here.