'Martian' Criticized by Advocacy Group for Changing Asian-American Characters' Races

Peter Mountain/Twentieth Century Fox
Kristen Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 'The Martian'

"Was Ridley Scott not comfortable with having two sets of Asian Americans talking to each other?"

An advocacy group is taking The Martian filmmakers to task for changing the races of some Asian-Americans characters from how they are described in the book on which the film is based. 

According to the Media Action Network for Asian Americans' (MANAA) complaint, author Andy Weir's best-selling 2014 novel of the same name featured Dr. Venkat Kapoor, a character of Southeastern Asia descent, whose name in the film is changed to Vincent Kapoor, and is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a black actor. The character says that his father was "a Hindu" and his mother was "Baptist."

Additionally, character Mindy Park, who is Korean-American in the book, is played by white actress Mackenzie Davis in director Ridley Scott's film.

Kapoor and Park both interact in key scenes with Jet Propulsion Lab director Bruce Ng, portrayed in the film by Benedict Wong, who is of Chinese descent. 

"Was Ridley Scott not comfortable having two sets of Asian Americans talking to each other?" said MANAA founding president Guy Aoki 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," Aoki continued. "This feel-good movie, which has attracted Oscar buzz, shouldn't get any awards for casting."

Scott's previous film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, received flak for casting white actors in Egyptian roles. Additionally, Cameron Crowe's film Aloha earned criticism earlier this year for the casting of white actress Emma Stone as a character who is described as a quarter Asian and a quarter Hawaiian. Crowe later apologized

A Fox rep did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Email: Ryan.Gajewski@THR.com

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