[UPDATE: 8/28/17] – Actor Ed Skrein has stepped down from the role of Ben Daimio. He released an official statement on Twitter.
It’s been a rough road for the Hellboy franchise. The third installment of Guillermo del Toro’s cult classic was stuck in limbo for years, on again and off again. Now things have finally lurched into motion again, but without del Toro or Hellboy actor Ron Perlman in the title role. Instead of a third franchise installment, the Millennium production company is rebooting the Dark Horse antihero. The relaunch of the IP will be on the shoulders of David Harbour (Stranger Things) as Hellboy, with Milla Jovovich as the villainous Blood Queen.
Now THR is exclusively reporting that Ed Skrein (Deadpool) is in final talks to join the project as Major Ben Daimio. Throughout the run of the comic, Daimio has been a consultant for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and (B.P.R.D.), eventually, a full-time employee. He’s also a were-jaguar; the curse inflicted on him during a rescue mission in the Bolivian jungle as a U.S. Marine. But most importantly for casting purposes, Captain Ben Daimio is Japanese-American.
Ed Skrein is…not.
Daimio’s family history in the Hellboy universe is complex. The grandson of a WWII era Japanese Imperial assassin and witch called the Crimson Lotus, Daimio’s father was raised in America by his aunt when the Crimson Lotus was put on trial for war crimes. Ben Daimio is the product of his father’s second marriage. So even before the were-jaguar incident, Daimio was intrinsically tied to the world of the paranormal through his paternal grandmother.
Which makes the casting of Skrein such an odd choice. Hollywood has been embroiled in high-profile whitewashing controversies for over a year now. From Ghost in the Shell to Doctor Strange, major movie studios have found themselves having to explain why they’re giving the few roles for Asian actors in existing IPs to white actors. Now, instead of learning from the past mistakes of their competition, it seems Millennium will instead be joining them.