Director Cameron Crowe has apologized for casting Emma Stone as Allison Ng, a character who is a quarter Asian and a quarter Hawaiian, in his new film “Aloha.”
The film has received intense backlash for erasing Hawaii's diversity, due to both the general absence of non-white actors — the film stars Stone, Rachel McAdams and Bradley Cooper — and, in particular, the decision to cast a white actress, Stone, in the Allison Ng role.
“Caucasians only make up 30% of the population [of Hawaii], but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 99%,” said the Media Action Network for Asian Americans. “This comes in a long line of films – ‘The Descendants,’ ’50 First Dates,’ ‘Blue Crush,’ ‘Pearl Harbor’ – that uses Hawaii for its exotic backdrop but goes out of its way to exclude the very people who live there. It’s an insult to the diverse culture and fabric of Hawaii.”
In an essay on his website, Crowe responded to the controversy and apologized for the casting decision:
“Thank you so much for all the impassioned comments regarding the casting of the wonderful Emma Stone in the part of Allison Ng. I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice. As far back as 2007, Captain Allison Ng was written to be a super-proud ¼ Hawaiian who was frustrated that, by all outward appearances, she looked nothing like one. A half-Chinese father was meant to show the surprising mix of cultures often prevalent in Hawaii. Extremely proud of her unlikely heritage, she feels personally compelled to over-explain every chance she gets. The character was based on a real-life, red-headed local who did just that.”
Saying that he felt the film had been “misunderstood” dating back to the Sony hacks, Crowe defended Stone, saying that she did “tireless research” and that “if any part of her fine characterization has caused consternation and controversy, I am the one to blame."
He added that he is “so proud that in the same movie, we employed many Asian-American, Native-Hawaiian and Pacific-Islanders, both before and behind the camera… including Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, and his village, and many other locals who worked closely in our crew and with our script to help ensure authenticity.”
“I am grateful for the dialogue. And from the many voices, loud and small, I have learned something very inspiring. So many of us are hungry for stories with more racial diversity, more truth in representation, and I am anxious to help tell those stories in the future,” Crowe concluded.