White Actors Playing Minority Roles

Double Standard, Underrepresentation & Historical Accuracy Biases  
Table Of Contents

Conservative Trope Examples

  • Bullet Train (2022)
    The novel the film is based off of takes place in Japan and features characters entirely of Japanese descent, but the film largely ignores that and only casts one Japanese actor in a major role.
  • The Beguiled (2017)
    Kirsten Dunst played Edwina Morrow, a biracial teacher in Virginia during the height of the Civil War.
  • Ghost in the Shell (2017)
    Scarlett Johansson played Major Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese comic book superhero.
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
    Tilda Swinton plays the Ancient One who is Asian in the comic books
  • Pan (2015)
    Rooney Mara played Tiger Lily, who is Native American.
  • Aloha (2015)
    Emma Stone played Captain Allison Ng, a character who is portrayed as one quarter Chinese and one quarter Hawaiian.
  • Exodus Gods and Kings (2014)
    Christian Bale (Moses), Joel Edgerton (Ramses), Sigourney Weaver (Tuya) and Aaron Paul (Joshua) are all white actors who played the role of ancient Egyptians.
  • The Lone Ranger (2013)
    Johnny Depp played Tonto, a Native from the Comanche tribe in what is now the Southern Plains of America.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
    Benedict Cumberbatch played villain Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically engineered human originally from India.
  • Argo (2012)
    Ben Affleck played Tony Mendez, a Mexican-American CIA operative who is the lead character in the film.
  • The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
    In the book the movie is based on, Mickey Haller is biracial with a Mexican mother but in the movie he is played by Matthew McConaughey.
  • The Last Airbender (2010)
    Asian characters Sokka and Katara are played by white actors Nicola Peltz Beckham and Jackson Rathbone.
  • Unthinkable (2010)
    Welsh actor Michael Sheen played Yusuf Atta Mohammed, an American Muslim special forces soldier.
  • Prince of Persia The Sands of Time (2010)
    Jake Gyllenhaal played Prince Dastan of Persia, a fictional character of Persian descent.
  • Dragonball Evolution (2009)
    Justin Chatwin played Goku, a Japanese anime superhero.
  • Wanted (2008)
    Assassin Fox is a black woman in the comics Wanted was based on but in the movie version she is played by Angelina Jolie.
  • 21 (2008)
    The movie is based on the MIT Blackjack team who were mostly Asian, but the main leads Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth are white.
  • 30 Days of Night (2007)
    Eben Oleson is Inuit in the comic book series, but the film cast Caucasian actor Johsh Hartnett to play the part.
  • A Mighty Heart (2007)
    Angelina Jolie played Mariane Pearl, a woman of mixed heritage who was married to slain journalist Daniel Pearl.
  • World Trade Center (2006)
    Marine Sergeant Jason Thomas is black in real life, but the film cast white actor William Mapother to portray him.
  • Nacho Libre (2006)
    Jack Black played Nacho, a Mexican monastery cook whose dream is to become a professional wrestler.
  • Batman Begins (2005)
    Liam Neeson plays Ra's al Ghul who is depicted as East Asian in the comics.
  • A Beautiful Mind (2001)
    The movie is based on real life mathematician John Nash whose real-life wife, Alicia, was Salvadoran-American; however, the movie cast Jennifer Connelly as Alicia and the role in which she won the OScar for best supporting actress
  • Pay It Forward (2000)
    The lead character in the book is black and named Reuben St. Clair, but Kevin Spacey portrays the lead character in the movie and St. Clair's name is changed to Eugene Simonet.
  • The Mask of Zorro (1998)
    Catherine Zeta-Jones played Elena Montero, a Spanish heroine who is the love interest of Zorro.
  • The Mask of Zorro (1998)
    Anthony Hopkins played Don Diego de la Vega, otherwise known as the Spanish Zorro.
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
    John Turturro played Jesus Quintana, a Cuban amateur bowler.
  • Evita (1996)
    Madonna played Eva Perón (Evita), former Argentinian First Lady and political activist.
  • Father of the Bride Part II (1995)
    Eugene Levy played Mr. Habib, a wealthy businessman from the Middle East.
  • Carlitos Way (1993)
    Al Pacino played Puerto Rician Carlito Brigante.
  • Scarface (1983)
    Al Pacino played Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee turned drug lord.

How Trope is Biased

Double Standard

  • The reverse is far less common with minority actors playing roles meant for white people


  • Minority actors have a long history of roles not being written for them on screen, so it is especially egregious when roles meant for minorities are changed to be white actors

Historical Accuracy

Conservative Biases

  • A favorite past-time of the right is to go bonkers anytime a director adds minority characters they feel should be white. Which is far, far less common than white washing
  • Republicans have a racism with many of their right-wing base which has been exacerbated since Trump, so anything that marginalizes minorities is obviously biased towards right-wing.