Emma Stone as Allison Ng in Aloha, Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in a Shell, Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange ... it's not that these actresses aren't talented, far from it. But why aren't studios instinctively casting Asian actors to play ethnically Asian roles?
According to The Guardian, Aaron Sorkin defended the lack of an Asian-American lead in his upcoming film Flash Boys - in the original book, the protagonist is Asian-American - saying: "There aren't any Asian movie stars." Screenwriter, producer, and playwright Sorkin is the man behind TV shows such as The Newsroom and The West Wing, and movies including Steve Jobs and The Social Network. (It's not like Sorkin hasn't featured Asians before. Does anyone remember half-Chinese actress Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith in The Newsroom? Yeah, she was pretty awesome in it. And Dev Patel was kind of key to several of the storylines in the show.)
Studios have also been saying that it has to do with the marketability of Asian actors compared to, what they believe, is the drawing power of established white actors. But first of all, Asian and other minority actors aren't going to have the chance to become "established" if not given a chance. Secondly, how could it be bad to have faces on the big screen that a wider range of people can relate to?
By the way, Fast & Furious 7, which has a culturally diverse cast, became the fifth biggest grossing film of all time, and crossed the US$1 billion mark in non-US territories, making it one of only three films to ever do so, the other two being Titanic and Avatar. So we know it isn't the presence of culturally diverse performers on screen that's the problem, since that didn't make viewers swerve away from the Fast & Furious franchise. All this has prompted an online movement called #StarringJohnCho, consisting of a website as well as a now viral hashtag, featuring movie posters which have been manipulated with Photoshop to show Korean-born, American-raised actor John Cho in the leading role.
According to the website, "#StarringJohnCho is a social movement that literally shows you what it would look like if today's Hollywood blockbusters cast an Asian-American actor - specifically, John Cho - as their leading man."
According to The Guardian, the man behind the movement, William Yu, said, "I'm tired of hearing from people that they can't 'see' an Asian American actor playing the romantic lead or the hero, so I created #StarringJohnCho to literally show you."
He may not have started the movement, but Cho has shown his support: