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What the Media Action Network for Asian Americans is pointing out is a fair point: why not cast an Asian or Asian American actor for that role?As the group's founding president Guy Aoki points out in The Hollywood Reporter, "It would have been a great, stereotype-busting role for an Asian American actor to play, as Asian American men aren’t allowed to be dynamic or heroic very often." I can't argue with that, nor can I explain why the Wachowskis and Tykwer didn't cast an Asian actor in a major role, except that by making an independent film on a huge budget, they possibly had to go with the actors with the biggest names possible, most of whom are white, American and English.(That's a depressing reality of filmmaking far bigger than Cloud Atlas that we can't really get into here) But to pick on Sturgess's transformation specifically, as well as the alteration of other actors (Hugo Weaving, James D'Arcy, Keith David) to appear more Asian, is to miss the purpose of Cloud Atlas, a movie devoted to the idea that these lines between races, genders and generations are as immaterial as, well, clouds.
Other ‘handsome’ Asian stars include Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan and Indian-American actor Sendhil Ramamurthy, who is recently seen in TV series, (2015) actress, Nargis Fakhri, who is a new entry to TC Candler’s 26th annual list.
The more familiar blackface has its origins in minstrel shows and has been absent in film for decades, while yellowface appears in films as beloved and recent as Breakfast at Tiffany's or David Carradine's kung fu movies-- it's nasty stuff, either way, and in the last few decades this kind of mockery of East Asian people has, thankfully, become as taboo as blackface.
And it's not that kind of parody that anybody is accusing Cloud Atlas of, which makes the yellowface term a little inaccurate-- Jim Sturgess's character, along with the other characters played by white actors in the Neo Seoul scenes, is not intended to mock Koreans.
As evidenced by the rich work of Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke, the ways in which globalization manifests itself in Shanghai today are certainly ripe for deeply considered exploration.
Daniel Hsia, the writer-director of seriously, one will, from the outset, have to suspend disbelief and swallow the almost unbelievable multicultural ignorance of its half-Asian, almost-30 protagonist, a corporate attorney named Sam Chao (Daniel Henney), and the obliviousness to the world outside his New York City bubble that leads to many instances of culture clash when his bosses send him to Shanghai for a few months on assignment.