9 Times White Actors Played People Of Color


By Sowmya Krishnamurthy

First #OscarsSoWhite and now Michael Jackson. Hollywood is finally coming to terms with its issues of diversity—there isn't any—and we find out that Michael Jackson will be played by a white guy in a new movie. This isn't the first time that a white actor has taken on a role specifically written for a person of color. From historic classics to modern films, here are some of the most memorable characters whitewashed beyond recognition.

1.. Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson

It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. When Michael Jackson sang that, he probably didn’t know that Joseph Fiennes (a white, English actor) would be playing him in an upcoming road trip comedy. Joseph himself was “shocked” to be cast in the role. After seeing him play William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love, so are we.

2.. Emma Stone in 'Aloha'

Emma Stone is an awesome young actress but is she Asian? She played Captain Allison Ng, an actual person of Hawaiian and Asian descent, in Aloha. The casting of the strawberry blonde was so off that director Cameron Crowe apologized for his decision. “I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice.”

3.. Johnny Depp in 'The Lone Ranger'

Johnny Depp can play a pirate but is he Native American? He has claimed he has Cherokee or Comanche ancestry but something felt very off when he played Tonto in The Lone Ranger.

4.. Angelina Jolie in 'A Mighty Heart'

When Angelina Jolie played the part of Mariane Pearl—the real-life wife of journalist Daniel Pearl—in A Mighty Heart, many wondered if she was the best casting choice to portray a woman of Afro Cuban and Dutch heritage. Putting on a curly wig wasn’t fooling us.

5.. Liz Taylor in 'Cleopatra'

There's no doubt that Elizabeth Taylor was one of the most beautiful women in the world. It’s logical then, that she would play the legendary beauty Cleopatra in the epic 1963 film. One small problem: the real Cleopatra was Egyptian while Liz Taylor was a fair, blue-eyed British woman.  The terrible casting proved lucrative for Liz; she earned a record-breaking $1 million for the film role.

6.. Ben Affleck in 'Argo'

It’s one thing when a white actor plays a fictional role but it’s especially flagrant when they take on a real person. Ben Affleck starred in Argo as the real-life Tony Mendez, a CIA operative with Mexican ancestry. Ben directed the movie and even won the Golden Globe for Best Director.

7.. Jim Sturgess in 'Cloud Atlas'

When the book Cloud Atlas was turned into a movie, little did we know it would feature the blatant use of “Yellowface,” white actors wearing horrible makeup to appear Asian. It was bad enough that white British actor James Sturgess tried to pass for Asian; what’s worse is when he likened his racism to frozen yogurt. “"Yellowface? Blackface? Pinkface? Pinkberry?" Ignorance doesn’t look good on you, bro.

8.. Mickey Rooney in 'Breakfast At Tiffany’s'

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the most iconic movies of all time. But while Audrey Hepburn runs about town as Holly Golightly, Mickey Rooney steals the show for his incredibly offensive portrayal of an Asian man named I. Y. Yunioshi. Rooney is bucktoothed, heavily-accented, caricature that’s still pointed to as one of Hollywood’s most racist roles.

9.. Laurence Olivier 'Othello'

In 1965, in the midst of the fight for civil rights, legendary actor Laurence Olivier, took on the title character in Shakespeare’s Othello. No matter Shakespeare wrote Othello as a Moor (or black man); Olivier played the part in full-on blackface and he accentuated his speech and movement in what he thought a black person should be like. Here’s how the NY Times described it at the time: “That's right, blackface—not the dark-brown stain that even the most daring white actors do not nowadays wish to go beyond. What's more, he caps his shiny blackface with a wig of kinky black hair and he has the insides of his lips smeared and thickened with a startling raspberry red.” It was so bad that the newspaper dubbed it an “American minstrel show.” Regardless, the film received the most Oscar nominations of any Shakespeare movie.

Related Stories
You May Also Like...
Recommended by Zergnet