The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) criticized director Ridley Scott and his new film The Martian on Thursday for changing the races of two central characters who had been Asian in the film’s source material.
Scott’s hit film, based on the 2014 novel by Andy Weir, centers on a daring NASA mission to retrieve an astronaut stranded on Mars. In Weir’s novel, NASA’s Director of Mars Operations is Dr. Venkat Kapoor, an Asian Indian character who identifies as Hindu. In Scott’s film, the character’s name is changed to Dr. Vincent Kapoor and he’s played by black, British-born actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Additionally, the character of Mindy Park, identified in the novel as Korean-American, is played in the film by caucasian actress Mackenzie Davis.
While Asian-British actor Benedict Wong portrays Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Bruce Ng in the film, the Asian-American media watchdog group blasted Scott for changing the other two characters’ original ethnicities.
“Was Ridley Scott not comfortable having two sets of Asian Americans talking to each other?” MANAA founding president Guy Aoki said in a statement. “So few projects are written specifically with Asian American characters in them and he’s now changed them to a white woman and black man. This was a great opportunity to give meaty roles to talented Asian American actors–and boost their careers–which would’ve enabled our community to become a greater part of the rescue team. This feel-good movie, which has attracted Oscar buzz, shouldn’t get any awards for casting.”
In its statement, the organization hit Scott for making similar casting decisions with his 2014 film Exodus: Gods and Kings, in which he was criticized for casting white actors in roles that critics said should have been played by Middle Eastern actors.
A representative for Scott did not immediately respond to Breitbart News’ request for comment.
The group also highlighted several other recent films it said changed characters’ original ethnicities, including The Last Airbender, Ghost in the Shell, and MIT poker caper movie Bringing Down the House. MANAA President and actor Aki Aleong called the casting trend “insulting.”
“Alarmingly, it has been increasing in frequency,” Aleong said. “Today’s audiences expect multi-racial casts in entertainment, as they reflect the multi-cultural environment in which they’ve grown up.”
Aleong went on to praise a trio of ABC television shows—Fresh off the Boat, Quantico, and Dr. Ken—for featuring Asian-American lead actors.
This is not the first time MANAA has targeted a film over “whitewashed” casting—in May, the group blasted Cameron Crowe’s latest film, Aloha, for using mostly white actors in its Hawaiian-set production.