Hawaii Film Blog

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Yunjin Kim Rejected "Geisha" Role

We are Chi-ah-nese if you please. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)

Finally! A chance for me to blog about the heated political and cultural controversy surrounding Rob Marshall's upcoming Oscar contender "Memoirs of a Geisha." Here's the Hawaii connection: Yunjin Kim who plays "Sun" on our beloved Hawaii-based series "Lost," was tapped to play the geisha role that Michelle Yeoh eventually took.

Scotland's Sunday Herald reported, "For five hours, Yoon-jin Kim pondered a supporting role in the $85-million movie Memoirs Of A Geisha, based on the 1997 best-selling novel by Arthur Golden. 'Since it was a film by Steven Spielberg and Rob Marshall, I first thought maybe I should just close my eyes tight and just do it....Even if it is Hollywood, I don’t want to start by playing a Japanese geisha. It’s a matter of pride,' she said."

Well, I'll withhold judgment on all the Japanese/Chinese, exoticization/misrepresentation/artistic license stuff until I actually watch the film, but...white guy writes geisha book, white readers buy geisha book, white guy produces geisha movie, white guy directs geisha movie, white audiences watch geisha movie...doesn't bode well.

Crouching starlet, angry dragon [Sunday Herald, 11/13/05]
‘Geisha’ under fire for casting choices [AP/MSNBC, 12/7/05]

UPDATE, 12/8/05:
Here's another quote from Yunjin (via The Chosun Ilbo) re: turning down the "Memoirs" role (thanks to "Ran Min" who posted the link on an AsiaFinest.com forum):
“Personally, I don't think it is wrong for a Korean actress to play a Japanese character in a film, or vice versa. I just didn't like the character of the geisha that I was offered. If the role had been appealing, I would have given more thought to the request. And when I received the offer, I had already decided to accept the role in ‘Georgia Heat.’” Side note: "Georgia Heat" was co-written and will be directed by Mora Stephens, who was just in town at the LVHIFF to present her Independent Spirit Award-nominated "Conventioneers."
"Korean Leading Lady Set to Take Hollywood by Storm" [The Chosun Ilbo, 12/31/04]

>> Actors Get Reality Check
Kudos to "Lost" on Asian American Representation
>> Cultural Insensitivity
Halting American Cultural Imperialism

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