Controversial casting choices of moviemakers

Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson? Moviemakers continue to make controversial casting choices.

Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson? Hollywood has a long history of whites in non-white roles

Scenes from the films, from left, The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Pan and Airbender. (Disney/Warner Home Video/Warner Home Entertainment)

Hollywood has a long tradition of casting white actors as other ethnicities, and a string of recent movies indicates the practice shows no real sign of abating. 

Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon 

​British actor Joseph Fiennes, who is white and best known for playing the Bard in the film Shakespeare in Love and a role on TV's American Horror Story, is slated to portray the iconic African-American pop star Michael Jackson in a short, 30-minute TV film.

The unusual casting of Fiennes as the internationally renowned black pop star comes amid heated debate and swirling controversy surrounding the lack of diversity at the upcoming Oscars and, more generally, in Hollywood itself.

Joseph Fiennes, left, has been cast to portray pop star Michael Jackson in a new TV movie. (Getty Images)

Gods of Egypt

In November 2015, Gods of Egypt director Alex Proyas apologized  for casting mostly white actors in his upcoming film based on Egyptian mythology. Proyas, an Australian who was born in Egypt, said their casting choices should have been more diverse. 

Gerard Butler is one of the stars of the movie Gods of Egypt. (Patrick Riviere/Getty Images, Summit Entertainment)

Exodus: Gods and Kings

The biblical film Exodus: Gods and Kings has come under fire for white actors being cast in the main roles as Egyptians, including casting Christian Bale as Moses. 

Christian Bale plays Moses in Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings. (Anthony Harvey/Getty, Twentieth Century Fox)


Fans of the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender slammed the movie version for its casting of white actors in the hero roles, including casting actor Noah Ringer as the Asian main character Aang.

Actor Noah Ringer plays the main character Ang in Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty, Zade Rosenthal/Paramount/AP)


In June, 2015, Cameron Crowe apologized to anyone offended that he cast Emma Stone in a partially Asian, partially Hawaiian role in the film Aloha. Stone's character, Capt. Allison Ng, is a quarter Hawaiian, and has a half-Chinese father. 

Emma Stone was cast as a partially Asian, partially Hawaiian character in the film Aloha. (Frazer Harrison/Getty, Neal Preston/Sony Pictures Entertainment/AP)

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a live-action adaptation of a video game, stars white actor Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role rather than an actor with a Middle Eastern background.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the title role in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. (Tim Mosenfelder/Getty, Andrew Cooper/Disney/AP)


Director Joe Wright came under scrutiny when he cast Rooney Mara as the Native American character Tiger Lily in his movie Pan.

Rooney Mara stars as Tiger Lily in the film Pan. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty, Warner Home Entertainment)

The Lone Ranger

​Disney film The Lone Ranger came under scrutiny with the casting of actor Johnny Depp to play Tonto, the title character's Native American sidekick. Depp says he is of Cherokee heritage and that he consulted with native leaders about the role.

Johnny Depp was chosen to play Tonto in The Lone Ranger. (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images, Jerry Brookheimer, Inc./Disney/AP)


The 2008 film 21 was based on a book inspired by the true story of a mostly Asian-American group of card players, yet was cast with mostly white actors in the main roles, including Jim Sturgess.

Jim Sturgess plays Ben Campbell in the 2008 film 21. (Stephen Lovekin/Getty, Sony Home Entertainment)