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Film Studies 101
Feature
The Greatest Casting Controversies - And How They Turned Out
After Batfleck and HunGrey, what were the biggest casting furores?

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The Greatest Casting Controversies - And How They Turned Out | Zhang Ziyi IS Chiyo
Zhang Ziyi IS Chiyo

The film: Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)

The actress: So-hot-right-then Chinese star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; House Of Flying Daggers and more.
The character: So-hot-right-then geisha Chiyo.

This was a nationality thing. The novel is partly set during World War II, during which the Japanese invaded China and, among other atrocities, conscripted Chinese women as sex workers. Since the word for “prostitute” and “geisha” is rather similar in Chinese, the recruitment of Chinese actors for the leads was controversial. In Japan, there were grumbles that the Japanese characters were portrayed by Chinese stars, but since Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh outgrossed basically every Japanese star even at the Japanese box-office, these were largely ignored.

Protestors preferred: A Japanese star; they didn’t seem too worried which one. Masami Nagasawa, perhaps, or Rie Miyazawa or Koyuki

The result: An OK but underwhelming $162m worldwide and a fistful of Oscar nominations, mostly in technical categories.

Vote: Can Zhang Ziyi stop you in your tracks with a single look?

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