February 23, 2016
‪‪Rooney Mara Regrets Her Whitewash Casting As 'Tiger Lily' In 'Pan'

Actress ‪‪Rooney Mara came under fire when she was cast as Tiger Lily in Joe Wright's Pan, the prequel to Scottish author J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan story which was first staged in 1904. During a recent interview with Deadline, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actress revealed that she regrets playing the role and agrees that whitewashing in Hollywood is real and indeed a problem. When the topic of Pan, based on J.M. Barrie's novel, first came up, she was asked if casting an actor based on ethnicity curbs art and creativity.

"I think that there are two sides to it," Rooney Mara said. "Yes, I do think it curbs art and creativity, and I also think that if you're going to go by that, you have to be able to…it has to go both ways. It can't just be that you don't want a white girl to play a certain part. It has to be both sides. And I do think it can curb art and creativity."

‪‪Rooney Mara Regrets Her Whitewashing Role As 'Tiger Lily' In 'Pan'
Rooney Mara attends the 'Pan' New York Premiere. [Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images]When speaking with The Telegraph, Rooney pointed that she received backlash at the moment she was cast in the role prior to filming, and again after the movie opened in theaters. An online petition to Warner Bros. was created, one that received nearly 96,000 signatures, completely objecting to Rooney Mara's casting in the film. Mara commented on the role of Whitewashing in Hollywood, as well as the recent controversy with the Oscars, and stated that she did not want her words to just become a "soundbite."

"I really hate, hate, hate that I am on that side of the whitewashing conversation," Rooney Mara said. "I really do. I don't ever want to be on that side of it again. I can understand why people were upset and frustrated."

In her interview with Deadline, the actress went into more detail, stating that the original novel did not feature Native Americans. "That was something later attributed and there's probably racism behind even that attribution," Mara said. The natives are referred to as the Pickaninny tribe in the book, which Mara admitted, "is wrought with racism." And she goes on to say that she was not signing onto the film to play the role of a Native American girl. That is, that isn't the way the role was described to her by director Joe Wright. According to Mara, Wright was looking to make the natives in the film a "conglomeration" of a number of cultures, making their representation more global. It was this description that she found to be "beautiful," and it's what ultimately lead her to accepting the role.

"That being said, I understand the anger about whitewashing," she concluded in her Deadline interview. "I completely do, and I agree with it."

Rooney Mara may not be the latest example of whitewashing in Hollywood, and the Carol actress is certainly not the first. A film being released this month, Gods of Egypt, is another production that bases its story in the heart of Egypt, while failing to cast a wide number of actors of color. Even though Egypt is in Africa, most of the actors in the film are white, which certainly presents a whitewashed view of history, even if the film and story is fictional.

Dragonball: Evolution was based on a Japanese manga that was then made into a live-action movie, where all of the source material is Japanese, even the main character whose name is Goku. Yet, a white actor, Justin Chatwin, was cast as the lead. Usually, when casting a role for a major motion picture, the logic used by studios is to go with a name actor, and those usually consist of white actors. They want a big return for their investment into the film, so it makes a bit of sense. However, Dragonball: Evolution was made on a low-budget, and Chatwin was not, and still isn't, a well-known actor. So there doesn't seem to be a logical reason why he was cast over a Japanese actor, other than "talent," if the studio really wasn't able to find any talented Japanese actors.

Rooney Mara has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2015's Carol. This is the second Academy Award nomination for Rooney Mara, with her first being Actress in a Leading Role for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

[Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images]