A US white supremacist group has called for a boycott of the Kenneth Branagh-directed superhero movie Thor on the grounds that a black actor has been cast in the role of a Norse god.
The Council of Conservative Citizens is upset that London-born Idris Elba, star of The Wire and BBC detective series Luther as well as a number of Hollywood films, is to play deity Heimdall in the Marvel Studios feature. The group, which opposes inter-racial marriage and gay rights, has set up a website, boycott-thor.com to set out its opposition to what it sees as an example of leftwing social engineering.
"It [is] well known that Marvel is a company that advocates for leftwing ideologies and causes," the site reads. "Marvel frontman Stan 'Lee' Lieber boasts of being a major financier of leftwing political candidates. Marvel has viciously attacked the Tea Party movement, conservatives and European heritage.
"Now they have taken it one further, casting a black man as a Norse deity in their new movie Thor. Marvel has now inserted social engineering into European mythology."
The site chooses to ignore its target's thespian talents, referring to "hip-hop DJ Elba" in apparent reference to the actor's career in East End nightclubs more than a decade ago. Elba himself address the casting issue earlier this year, pointing out that "Thor has a hammer that flies to him when he clicks his fingers". He continued: "That's OK, but the colour of my skin is wrong?"
Branagh's decision to cast non-white actors as citizens of Asgard stands in apparent opposition to a one-time policy on Peter Jackson's forthcoming Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit. A British woman of Pakistani origin complained last month that she had been turned away from a casting session fro being "too brown". The offending crew member, an independent contractor, was later sacked.
Thor, starring the Anglo-Saxon-looking Chris Hemsworth in the title role, and Jewish actor Natalie Portman as his love interest is due to arrive in cinemas next May.
Miss Saigon has received criticism for what some have perceived as a racist or sexist overtone, including protests regarding its portrayal of Asian men, Asian women, or women in general.
Originally, Pryce and Burns, white actors playing Eurasian/Asian characters, wore eye prostheses and bronzing cream to make themselves look more Asian, which outraged some who drew comparisons to a "minstrel show".
In the London production of Miss Saigon, Lea Salonga originally starred as Kim, with Jonathan Pryce as the Engineer. When the production transferred from London to New York City, the Actors Equity Association (AEA) refused to allow Pryce, a white actor, to recreate the role of the Eurasian pimp in America. As Alan Eisenberg, executive secretary of Actors' Equity explained, "The casting of a Caucasian actor made up to appear Asian is an affront to the Asian community. The casting choice is especially disturbing when the casting of an Asian actor, in the role, would be an important and significant opportunity to break the usual pattern of casting Asians in minor roles." This ruling led to criticism from many including British Equity, citing violations of the principles of artistic integrity and freedom. Producer Cameron Mackintosh threatened to cancel the show, despite massive advanced ticket sales.
Although there had been a large, well-publicized international search among Asian actresses to play Kim, there had been no equivalent search for Asian actors to play the major Asian male roles—specifically, Engineer (Pryce) and Thuy (Keith Burns). However, others pointed out that since the Engineer's character was Eurasian (French-Vietnamese), they argued that Pryce was being discriminated against on the basis that he was Caucasian. Also, Pryce was considered by many in Britain to have "star status", a clause that allows a well-known foreign actor to recreate a role on Broadway without an American casting call. After pressure from Mackintosh, the general public, and many of its own members, Actors' Equity was forced to reverse its decision. Pryce starred alongside Salonga and Willy Falk (as Chris) when the show opened on Broadway.
During the production transfer from West End to Broadway, a lesser controversy erupted over Lea Salonga's citizenship, as she was neither British nor American. The AEA wanted to give priority to their own members and so initially prevented her from reprising her role. However, Mackintosh was not able to find a satisfactory replacement for Salonga despite the extensive auditions he conducted in several American and Canadian cities. An arbitrator reversed the AEA ruling a month later to allow Salonga to star.