Natalie Portman has said that she had no idea that there was any issue with whitewashing her character in new movie Annihilation.
Speaking to Yahoo Movies in the US, she said: “I actually didn’t know that. I’m hearing that for the first time.
“That does sound problematic, but I’m hearing it here first.”
Some have been critical of the casting of Portman in the role of Lena, a biologist, in the movie, though there are some mitigating circumstances.
Director and writer Alex Garland has based his movie on the first book of a trilogy by author Jeff VanderMeer, however VanderMeer only reveals in the second book that Portman’s biologist has ‘high cheekbones that speak to the strong Asian heritage on one side of her family.’
It’s also revealed in the second book that Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character is half Native American.
While Garland was writing the movie’s script, the second and third novels had not been published.
So not only had Garland not read them, but he was purposely not doing so, in order to concentrate on making his own adaptation.
“I knew at that time there were supposed to be three books planned,” he told Yahoo last year. “But I didn’t know [anything] about the other two.”
“We need more representation of Asians on film, of Hispanics on film, of blacks on film, women and particularly women of color, Native Americans — I mean, we just don’t have enough representation,” Portman continued.
“And also these categories like ‘white’ and ‘nonwhite’ — they’re imagined classifications but have real-life consequences… And I hope that begins to change, because I think everyone is becoming more conscious of it, which hopefully will make change.”
For his part, Garland has said he’d never intentionally whitewash a role.
“I did not know that stuff,” he told Nerdist.
“It would not be in my nature to whitewash anything. That just wouldn’t be like me. I read a book and I adapted it because I thought the book was amazing. And I thought, ‘I’m not exactly sure how to adapt this, but I’ve got an idea.’ And I just went with it. So that was it.”
The movie is scoring excellent early buzz, with come critics calling it a masterpiece, ahead of the reviews embargo.
It’s released on Netflix in the UK next month. Check out the trailer below.