Michael Lewis doesn't see his popular book Flash Boys making it to the big screen anytime soon because Hollywood won't cast "a movie with an Asian lead."
He made the comments Saturday at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., during a session that was webcast on C-Span. During a conversation with Washington Post journalist Joel Aschenbach, Lewis said the stumbling block to a book-to-movie adaptation is the real-life main character in Flash Boys, IEX founder Brad Katsuyama.
The problem was revealed in emails that surfaced during the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures. "There were emails back and forth about how impossible it was to make a movie with an Asian lead. The problem was Brad Katsuyama," Lewis explained. "They've gotten to the point where they're nervous about making an Asian guy a white guy. A decade ago, they weren't. They'd have just done that," he added.
The industry's whitewashing controversy has come to the fore in the past year after projects including Ghost in the Shell and Doctor Strange cast white actors as characters who were Asian in the source material. More recently, Ed Skrein left the Hellboy reboot after an outcry over his casting as a rugged military member Major Ben Daimio, who in the comic books is Asian.
Lewis said the irony of Hollywood not having a "well-enough known Asian actor" for an adaptation is the fact that Katsuyama remains a relatively unknown figure in real life, despite his appearance in Flash Boys and his Wall Street experience.
Aaron Sorkin in 2014 was in talks to adapt Lewis' best-selling book for Sony, but the project hasn't gone forward. Sony earlier acquired the nonfiction book that deals with the practice of high-frequency trading on Wall Street and how it became a way to rig the system. Lewis' book revolves around a group of men on Wall Street including Sergey Aleynikov, a onetime programmer for Goldman Sachs, and Katsuyama, the founder of IEX, the Investor's Exchange.
Lewis also made colorful comments on the relationship between Hollywood studio execs and fiction and non-fiction writers like himself. "The people in Hollywood really prefer that authors be dead. All the living author does is cause trouble ... They just don't like you alive," he told the Washington, D.C., audience.
At the same time, Lewis said Hollywood execs remain remarkably polite. "Everyone is showing off how gracious they can be, even when they're sticking the knife into your back. It's not like Wall Street, that way," Lewis said with a wry smile.