Here we’ll go through five of the most controversial casting decisions in recent memory. In recent years there’s seemingly one casting controversy after one, the most recent one being the news that James Franco has been cast as the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an upcoming biopic. It’s not the first odd decision by Hollywood’s casting directors, so let’s have a look at some of them.
5. Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi
The first and one of the more recent entries on this list of the most controversial casting decisions, based on the famous manga of the same name, Ghost in the Shell (2017) was the live-action debut that garnered much attention when it was announced. Whilst many fans were excited by the prospect of seeing the story brought to the big screen, even more, fans were annoyed by the casting of the main character. Johansson was announced to be playing the main character, and whilst no one can argue against her action acting chops, it was fair criticism that a white woman was cast in a part that has always been a Japanese woman in all forms of media over the years.
4. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One
Another example of Hollywood ‘whitewashing’ their characters and films, Tilda Swinton was announced to play the Ancient One in Doctor Strange (2016) as part of the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comics though, the part was played by an Asian man. In an industry already difficult enough for minorities to break into, it wasn’t a good look for Disney or Marvel, regardless of how good Swinton eventually performed.
3. Jodie Foster as Iris
Problematic for an entirely different reason to the previous entries, and one of the oldest of the most controversial casting decisions, this was more an age-related issue in the film than anything else. Foster played Iris in the seminal film Taxi Driver directed by Martin Scorsese. Iris was a young girl that had run away from her home and resorted to prostitution to survive. The fact she was twelve in real life at the time garnered some less than favorable attention, and they were thankfully forced to get in her older sister for the more explicit scenes.
2. Jared Leto as Rayon
Winning an Oscar for any part is no mean feat, but for all the good attention this part brought, there was as much bad attention too. Jared Leto famously commits to all of his parts, his antics on the set of Suicide Squad (2016) being the most notable, and in this case with Dallas Buyer’s Club, it was no different. He lost an obscene amount of weight and stayed in character until the film wrapped, even when the cameras weren’t rolling, but most were wondering why a straight, white male was playing the part of a transgender character in the first place.
1. James Franco as Fidel Castro
The most recent controversy for Hollywood to explain, James Franco has been cast as the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in the upcoming semi-biographical Alina of Cuba. Franco himself isn’t averse to controversy, with recent sexual assault allegations dragging his name through the mud, and this won’t be helping his image either. Apparently cast due to his physical likeness to Castro, many have asked why the casting directors are giving a white male the part of arguably the most famous Cuban of the last one hundred years. Also, Pedro Pascal should have been a shoo-in for this, both on acting superiority and likeness to the Cuban leader.
What other Hollywood casting mishaps can you think of, and what would have made your list of the most controversial casting decisions?