Hollywood has long had a habit of casting white actors to play characters of different races. Read on for some of the most notorious instances of Hollywood whitewashing.
Katharine Hepburn as Jade in "Dragon Seed" (1944)
As morale-boosting propaganda, this war film -- based on the novel by Pearl S. Buck -- is extremely effective. But four-time Oscar-winner Katharine Hepburn is obviously miscast as a Chinese woman who convinces the men in her village to rise up against their Japanese oppressors.
Yul Brynner as the King of Siam in "The King and I" (1951)
Russian-born Swiss star Yul Brynner played the decidedly not Russian-born Swiss king of Siam 4,625 times on Broadway, then on film. He won two Tony Awards and an Oscar.
Brenner's second most famous role was also whitewashing: he played Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses in "The Ten Commandments."
John Wayne as Genghis Khan in "The Conqueror" (1956)
Who better to play the most famous Asian of all time than John Wayne? This film had a cast so whitewashed it bordered on parody. Oh, and the Utah desert looks nothing like Mongolia. Even 1950s critics, who gave most whitewashing a pass, found the casting distracting.
Another possible problem with the Utah setting: It was 100 miles downwind from a major U.S. nuclear testing site. By 1980, 46 people who had worked on the film died of cancer, including Wayne.
Natalie Wood and George Chikiris as Maria and Bernardo in "West Side Story" (1961)
The musical retelling of "Romeo and Juliet" went further than many productions of its era, casting actual Puerto Rican actors in significant roles, most notably the legendary Rita Moreno as Bernardo's lover, Anita. The story also focuses on the prejudice faced by immigrants trying to assimilate into American society.
In the room-for-improvement column, it starred Ukrainian-American Wood and Greek-American Chikiris playing Puerto Rican siblings and speaking in not very good accents.
Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) It's painful to watch Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi, pervy neighbor to Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn). The film was a huge hit that came to be considered an all-time classic. But since the early 1990s, the character has been cited as one of the most offensive ethnic caricatures ever filmed. Director Blake Edwards and producer Richard Shepherd have both said they regret adding the character to the film.
Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal in "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962)
The future Obi-Wan Kenobi plays Prince Faisal, a real-life leader in the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire who was briefly king of Syria and went on to become the first king of Iraq. Alec Guinness may have been one of the greatest-ever actors, and looked like Faisal, but he was not an Arab.
The role was supposed to go to famed British actor Laurence Olivier, who went on to take another whitewashed role in the '60s...
Laurence Olivier in "Othello" (1965)
Othello was portrayed by white actors in blackface well into the 20th century. Olivier earned an Oscar nomination, but some critics blasted Olivier's absurd blackface makeup and his made-up accent and mannerisms.
Al Pacino as Tony Montana in "Scarface" (1983)
Look, mang: "Scarface" is a beloved cultural touchstone for generations of crime- film fans, and inspired a thousand rap songs and stolen quotes. But it also features Italian-American Al Pacino doing one of the most ridiculous fake accents in film history as Cuban drug lord Tony Montana.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" (2010)
The "Prince of Persia" video game series is not renowned for historical or cultural accuracy, but it is definitely supposed to take place in Persia during a fantasy time period. One thing scholars agree on, Jake Gyllenhaal is not remotely of Persian descent.
Johnny Depp as Tonto in "The Lone Ranger" (2013)
In a clear sign of changing times, Johnny Depp's casting as The Lone Ranger's crime-fighting partner, Tonto, had heads shaking many months before the film hit theaters. Depp says he has Native American ancestry, and was even made an honorary member of the Commanche nation. But the bad publicity helped sink this one.
The entire cast of "Exodus: Gods and Kings" (2014)
In another sign of changing times, Ridley Scott's biblical epic drew protests for selecting a cast of white A-listers to play Hebrew characters. Scott didn't help his case when he told those with grievances over the casting to "get a life" and that he wouldn't be able to get his $140 million film financed if "my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such." The film was still able to make its money back, grossing $268 million at the box office, but it was savaged by critics -- for story, character, and quality, not casting.
Emma Stone in "Aloha" (2015)
Casting Stone as "Allison Ng," a half white, one quarter Chinese, one quarter Hawaiian U.S. Air Force pilot, sparked a massive backlash. Director Cameron Crowe says he based the character on a real-life red headed woman he met in Hawaii, but apologized nonetheless. So did Stone, who said the response increased her awareness.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Geoffrey Rush, Gerard Butler, Brenton Thwaites, etc, "Gods of Egypt" (2016)
On paper "Gods of Egypt" looked like it could have been a hit. It combines ancient mythology, a story about superpowered beings fighting for control of the universe, and an absolutely crazy setting, things American audiences tend to love. But it's set in a fantasy version of Ancient Egypt, and primarily white actors were cast in prominent roles. A backlash ensured almost as soon as Lionsgate started marketing the film -- and this time the studio apologized immediately. The film only took in $150M on its $140M budget.
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in "Doctor Strange" (2016)
Marvel was arguably between a rock and a hard place on this one. In the comics, the Ancient One is a prime example of the trope of a wise Asian man who teaches a white man to become superior. It makes sense the studio would want to change it up to avoid criticisms of racial stereotyping. However, changing the character to a white woman played by Tilda Swinton invited other criticism -- that a role which could have gone to an Asian actor was instead handed to a white actor. The debate didn't hurt the film's box office, but it's likely Marvel will be developing characters for "Doctor Strange 2" carefully.
Scarlett Johansson in "Ghost in the Shell" (2017)
Fans of the 1989 manga and 1995 animated Japanese film on which the film was based were upset that Johannson landed the role of human-turned-cyborg. But the movie sidestepped the question by renaming her Major Mira Killian -- but giving her a Japanese backstory in flashbacks as Motoku Kusanagi.
BONUS: Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico in "Starship Troopers" (1997)
With his hyperviolent 1997 cult favorite, Paul Verhoeven provided a rare example of whitewashing being deployed for good instead of ill. While Johnny Rico was Filipino (and named Juan) in Robert A. Heinlein's military sci-fi novel, Verhoeven deliberately made Rico and the entire main cast white as part of his effort to turn that novel into a brutal satire of fascism, propaganda, and the way xenophobia is used to fuel pro-war patriotism.