I’ve often wondered if the tendency Hollywood seems to have with the supposed interchangeability of Asian actors is ever an issue with the actors themselves. For instance, you had Linda Park, a Korean, playing Japanese Hoshi Sato on Star Trek: Enterprise; Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi playing a Japanese geisha (which did cause some controversy by the way); Michelle Yeoh, a Malaysian, playing a million Chinese roles; and Grace Park playing a black guy on Battlestar Galactica.
So it might initially seem that it could be easy to manufacture some sort of minor drama over the fact that producers of the upcoming Seth Rogen-starring, Michel Gondry-directed Green Hornet remake have replaced the departed Hong Kong actor / director Stephen Chow with Jay Chou, who is a Taiwanese actor and singer, for the role of Kato. The fact that their last names are differing by a letter only adds an ironic twist to the issue.
However, one quick look at Wikipedia shows that the role of Kato is not specific in his ethnicity and has actually been portrayed by several different nationalities going back to the days of radio. He started out as Japanese, then Filipino, Korean and occasionally with just the blanket “Oriental” tag. Kato has been portrayed in the past by Raymond Hayashi, Roland Parker, Mickey Tolan and even Keye Luke in the movie serials. Some guy named Lee also took a stab at the role.
So, now the role goes to Chou, who broke into film in “Initial D” in 2005 in China, starred opposite
Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li in Zhang Yimou’s “The Curse of the Golden
Flower” and “Kung Fu Dunk” and made his directorial debut and starred
in “Secret.” He’s also in the upcoming Chinese film “Ci Ling” and in
Yuen Woo-Ping’s “True Legend.” Chou is also a renowned for his singing ability in Asia. Another ironic twist to the story is that Chou reportedly “dreamed” of being Bruce Lee. So now he has his chance, but can he handle the fisticuffs? Gondry seems to think so: “Jay is incredibly unique and charming and fights like a wild dog!”
Green Hornet is set for a fall start and a summer release next year, with Cameron Diaz and Nicolas Cage reportedly in talks to play the love interest and baddie respectively.