Note: this article may contain minor spoilers for the movie
Just as the ‘New Mutants’ film has been released this week after years in development hell, director Josh Boone has been caught in a controversy over statements he made about one of the character’s portrayals. In an interview with Gizmodo, Boone discussed the casting of Henry Zaga as Roberto da Costa – there has been some criticism of this casting as in the original comics Roberto is Afro-Brazilian while Zaga is lighter skinned:
You won’t have any argument from me. It’s like my thing was my goal was to cast a real Brazilian and I saw 300 of myself black, brown, lighter-skinned. I saw every shade of the sun. It was the same case with Blu Hunt. It’s like we looked at 300 Native American people and people very close ties to the Native American community. My goal was to find the best actor who, because they’ve done so little work, was at least the closest to kind of what I saw in my head for the character. There was nobody who hold a candle to Henry. It’s like maybe if Henry didn’t exist, I would have found somebody who was darker skinned who exemplified what I needed. But it was never about the colour of their skin for me.
I didn’t care so much about the racism I’ve heard about in Brazil, about light-skinned versus dark-skinned. To me, it was I wanted to represent Brazil in a positive way and I wanted to find somebody who seems like he could look like a guy who’s had the silver spoon in his mouth, who has like a really rich dad and [Henry] just exemplified all these things. Henry’s such a dedicated performer and you can see it in her performance on The Stand where he’s playing someone who can neither speak nor hear, and he put so much time into learning sign language and spending time learning from deaf people was just great. He’s a beyond reproach human being, and I sort of defy anybody who wants to say that Henry’s not a good Roberto simply because he’s lighter-skinned.Josh Boone via Gizmodo
Though some have taken the above quotes as having been poorly worded or misunderstood, many have criticized the alleged racist implications of Boone’s statements:
…he said with all the words that a black guy can’t have a rich face like henry has, he said that he didn’t care about the racism on brazil. that’s really enough for me :/ i couldn’t even read the restanya joy (fan account) via Twitter
Y’all Josh Boone is shameless… He really thinks Black characters should only be portrayed by Black Actors when their character deals with racism otherwise it’s free gameThe Female Blerd via Twitter
Also included in their tweet were screenshots of further statement made by Boone on Instagram. As of writing this article, he has turned off comments on his ‘New Mutants’-related posts.
‘New Mutants’ comic co-creator Bob McLeod has made a public statements about the controversy, and has also called out the film for misspelling his name in the credits:
I was very excited when I heard they were making a New Mutants movie. I thought making it into a horror movie was perhaps an interesting idea, but not at all how the characters should be introduced to the public at large. But, hey, my characters in a movie! I never would have thought that would actually happen. But then, I was disappointed when they didn’t give Dani braids, although I like Blu Hunt. I was disappointed when Rahne wasn’t a redhead with spiky hair, although I adore Maisie Williams. I was disappointed that Sam isn’t tall and gawky, although I do like Charlie Heaton. But mainly I was very disappointed that Roberto isn’t short and dark-skinned. Yet another example of Hollywood white-washing. There’s just no excuse. So basically, #JoshBoone erased everything I contributed to the way the characters look. And now, the movie has come out at last, and apparently they’ve credited someone named Bob Macleod as co-creator. They couldn’t even be bothered to check the spelling of my name sometime in the last three years. And that can’t be fixed. That will be on the movie forever. I think I’m done with this movie.Bob McLeod via Facebook
Maisie Williams made a sarcastic tweet in response to a negative review of the film, though it’s unclear if this was at all prompted by or related to the current outrage:
Sounds like a must see! Get your tickets nowMaisie Williams via Twitter
Embedded in her tweet was a link to a negative review of ‘New Mutants’
Popular ‘New Mutants’ fan/leak account New Mutants Updates also made a statement on the incident:
To all our followers! We are deeply sorry for Josh’s comments on Bobby casting! Racism is a real thing. Especially in Brasil! As a Brazilian myself reading this was very hard and heartbreaking. Spread love not hate, NMU!New Mutants Updates via Twitter
In spite of the controversy surrounding the movie, many still plan on seeing it in cinemas:
Kind of bummed to hear all the negative news about this movie I was very excited for the initial concept of a horror X-men movie Im still going to the movie tomorrow but just with lower expectations still hope it’s a fun watchYummyMochaFrap via Twitter
The film has also faced further criticism from its viewers. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has been rated an abysmal 24% by critics and a barely passable 53% by the general audience. Some have said the film contains racist dialogue:
Writer/Director Josh Boone: I don’t care about racism.
Me: *watches #NewMutants*
Magik to Danielle Moonstar: Hey Pocahontas! Hey Standing Rock! What kind of Indian are you?
Me: Yeah that tracks.
Stop letting White men make superhero movies based off diverse source material.Rendy @FantasiaFest via Twitter
So Josh Boone made Illyana racist? And y’all was talking about how she was going to be the best part of the movie and y’all stan her. That’s embarrassingT’Challa Stan via Twitter
The movie has released domestically to a $750,000 box office in preview screenings and is estimated to garner between $7 and $10 million across the opening weekend (the reported budget of the movie is $8 million).
‘New Mutants’ is a comic series initially published in 1982 by co-creators Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod. It follows a team of young mutant heroes-in-training who at the time were created to replace the original ‘X-Men’ team who had become adults. One of the most notable stories from the series is the Demon Bear Saga, in which Danielle Moonstar is plagued by visions of a bear threatening to kill her. The series was announced to be having a film adaptation in 2016, though it faced several delays in release until finally coming out on August 28th domestically (in some locations internationally it was released on the 23rd). Some of the rumored reasons for delays including re-shoots have since been debunked. The film is directed by Josh Boone and stars Blu Hunt as Danielle Moonstar, Maisie Williams as Rahne Sinclair, Anya Taylor-Joy as Illyana Rasputin, Henry Zaga as Roberto da Costa, Charlie Heaton as Sam Guthrie, and Alice Braga as Dr Reyes.