Controversy Over '21' Movie Casting

March 19, 2008

21_blackjack.thumbnail.png Here is some eyebrow-raising news about the casting for the upcoming '21′ blackjack movie, due out March 28th. This is the movie based off the best-selling book 'Bringing Down the House', about the real-life team of mostly Asian Americans who won big in Las Vegas. The two main characters in the book, 'Kevin Lewis' and 'Steve Fisher', were Jeff Ma and Mike Aponte, two Asian American males. The Hollywood version stars Jim Sturgess, and according to the book author, the Hollywood casting directors initially wanted to completely exclude any Asian male characters from the film... ["Mezrich mentioned the stereotypical Hollywood casting process ― though most of the actual blackjack team was composed of Asian males, a studio executive involved in the casting process said that most of the film's actors would be White, with perhaps an Asian female. Even as Asian actors are entering more mainstream films, such as "Better Luck Tomorrow' and the upcoming "Memoirs of a Geisha', these stereotypes still exist, said Mezrich".] This is pretty outrageous, and just as questionable as having Brian Dennehy play Kublai Khan in HBO's recent 'Marco Polo' movie. While there have not been too many complaints in mainstream media over these developments, one cannot help but wonder what the backlash would have been like if, for example, Hollywood had made the movie 'Coach Carter', with a Caucasian actor replacing Sam Jackon's role, which was based on a real-life story. In terms of marketing or box office numbers, it is also puzzling why they would cast Sturgess (a relative unknown) as the lead student instead of Aaron Yoo (also in the film as a minor role), when the movie already had cast such big-name stars as Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne. and racialicious also commented on this casting controversy. ma_aponte.jpg


Alvin Lin


Alvin Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan and hails from New England. He blogs about Asian American pop culture, film, music, literature and politics, as well as relevant news around the world. He also writes for Imprint Talk. Alvin has degrees from Cornell and MIT.