Following widespread outcry, Aloha director Cameron Crowe has finally offered an apology and an explanation on his website for his baffling decision to cast white actress Emma Stone as Allison Ng, a character of Hawaiian, Chinese, and Swedish descent.
Though the film was shot on location in Oahu and employed more than 400 local residents during production, not a single Hawaiian actor is to be found among Aloha’s stars, who include Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, and Danny McBride. This lack of representation sparked near-universal outrage and led the Media Action Network for Asian Americans to issue a statement condemning the film and calling for a boycott.
Stone’s casting may be just one of many problematic decisions made by the production, but selecting a blue-eyed, strawberry-blond actress to play a half-Asian character drew exceptional mockery. On his website, Crowe offered “a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice,” while still defending the decision to cast Stone, explaining that the fictional Allison Ng reflects the mix of cultures found in Hawaii and is based on “a real-life, red-headed local” of similarly mixed heritage. At the same time, Crowe deflects blame away from Stone herself, whom he praises both for her “tireless research” and her performance.
Despite Crowe’s acknowledgement of the criticism and his promise to tell stories with greater racial diversity in the future, the damage may already have been done: Aloha grossed a disappointing $10 million at the box office this weekend.