When it comes to casting non-Caucasian roles in Hollywood, it’s usually the same crowd of Will Smith, Lucy Liu, Ken Watanabe, Jackie Chan, and Halle Berry, amongst others, that get these roles. But then on occasion you get a baffling decision to whitewash an obviously ethnic role (usually Asian), that fails to be believable when the actor or actress on screen doesn’t match the name of the character.

It’s OK for a Caucasian or African-American actor to take on the role of a character with the surname “Fury” (as Samuel L. Jackson did in the “Avengers,” where Nick Fury was originally a white character), but not for clearly Asian surnames like “Khan.” It becomes a waste of a good performer because no matter how talented the actress is, nobody is going to take a red-head seriously when her name is “Ng,” like in the recent romantic comedy “Aloha.”

So here’s a look at some of the most jarringly miscasted roles in recent popular movies – and how well it worked out.

1. Johnny Depp playing Tonto in “The Lone Ranger”

Johnny Depp plays Tonto in The Lone Ranger. Credit: salon.com

Johnny Depp plays Tonto in The Lone Ranger. Credit: salon.com

No amount of white face paint can hide the fact that Tonto is played by a decidedly non-Native American character, Johnny Depp. Tonto is literally white-washed in this film, and this miscasted role is exacerbated by Johnny Depp’s usual inebriated performance and the strange costume design. While Tonto was the star of the show in “The Lone Ranger,” he also came across as a really, really odd Red Indian.

2. Gong Li playing Hatsumono, Zhang Ziyi playing Chiyo Sakamoto, and Michelle Yeoh playing Mameha in “Memoirs of a Geisha”

 Zhang Ziyi as Chiyo, Michelle Yeoh as Mameha, and Gong Li as Hatsumono in Memoirs of a Geisha. Credit: readingthereel.wordpress.com

Zhang Ziyi as Chiyo, Michelle Yeoh as Mameha, and Gong Li as Hatsumono in Memoirs of a Geisha. Credit: readingthereel.wordpress.com

I’m cheating a little here by giving you three Chinese actresses playing three Japanese roles, but while it may be OK to fudge a little and include three roles in one list point, it’s not OK to assume that the Chinese race and Japanese race are interchangeable. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly common for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean roles to be interchangeable, such as the character of Sulu in “Star Trek” (played by Japanese George Takei in the original, and Korean John Cho in the remake), and a queer choice given that films have a far more international reach than ever before.

3. Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan in “Star Trek: Into Darkness”

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the villainous Khan in "Star Trek: Into Darkness. Credit: comicvine.com

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the villainous Khan in “Star Trek: Into Darkness. Credit: comicvine.com

No matter how you swing it, “Khan” is definitely an Asian name, be it South Asian or East Asian. Benedict Cumberbatch handled the role well despite the oddity of a Caucasian playing an South Asian, giving as a scene-stealing performance as the villain of the piece. It’s interesting to note that Khan in the original Star Trek movie, “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan” was also ethnically miscast, with Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán playing the original role. “Star Trek” does seem to get into a lot of ethnic miscasting!

4. Justin Chatwin playing Goku in “Dragonball: Evolution”

Justin Chatwin as Goku in Dragonball: Evolution. Credit:  people.theiapolis.com

Justin Chatwin as Goku in Dragonball: Evolution. Credit: people.theiapolis.com

While Justin Chatwin was a fairly endearing Goku in the film, it’s pretty clear that “Goku” is a Japanese name, and Justin Chatwin is far from anything Japanese. It only gets more incongruous when his duds start aligning with his anime counterpart as the movie progresses, taking on an even more Japanese aesthetic. At least his nemesis, Piccolo (played by James Marsters) has the excuse of being an alien, so it didn’t matter who picked up that role.

5. Emma Stone playing Allison Ng in “Aloha”

The lovely Emma Stone plays Allison Ng in Aloha. Credit: vulture.com

The lovely Emma Stone plays Allison Ng in Aloha. Credit: vulture.com

Most of the flak could have been dodged if they had just decided to let Brian (Bradley Cooper’s character) and the rest of the characters address her as “Allison” instead of “Ng.” Instead, we have them constantly referring to her as “Ng,” which becomes as a shorthand for “She’s part Asian! She’s of mixed ethnicities! Don’t forget that!” Come on, calling her Allison would have been just fine. Nobody else really gets the “address them by the surname” treatment as much as she does in the film.

Not convinced that Emma Stone was miscast in “Aloha?” Check out her role as “Ng” now at Golden Village Theatres.

Sources: www.salon.com, www.vulture.com, www.comicvine.com, www.zekefilm.com, people.thiapolis.com, readingthereel.wordpress.com.