Allison Ng, one of the major characters in Cameron Crowe's recently released Aloha, is Asian-American. Emma Stone, the actress the director chose to portray her, is not. The casting decision raised eyebrows and drew criticism from groups who said that by using Stone to play a character who explicitly states her racially mixed background throughout the movie, Crowe was whitewashing the role. Now Crowe, in a post on his own site, has offered a "heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice."
The director says that he was "grateful for the dialogue" the backlash provided, but also took the time to defend his decision to cast Stone as Ng. "As far back as 2007," Crowe writes, "Captain Allison Ng was written to be a super-proud one-quarter Hawaiian who was frustrated that, by all outward appearances, she looked nothing like one." Crowe, who has described Aloha as a film about Hawaii, says that her half-Chinese father was meant to symbolize "the surprising mix of cultures often prevalent" on the islands.
The director says Ng was based on a real-life, red-haired Hawaiian local
Crowe says that Ng was written to be "extremely proud of her unlikely heritage," and also "personally compelled to over-explain every chance she gets." The character, he says, was based on a "real-life, red-headed local" who also detailed her background to others whenever possible. Certainly, the movie makes a point of conflating Ng's stated heritage with her outward appearances — Bradley Cooper's character makes direct reference to her self-definition as Hawaiian, in the same way Americans will define themselves as one-eighth Irish, Italian, or similar.
But despite his protestations, the director does not discount the complaints about the casting choice entirely. "I have learned something very inspiring," Crowe writes. "So many of us are hungry for stories with more racial diversity, more truth in representation, and I am anxious to help tell those stories in the future." Hopefully, after the turgid Aloha, the director's apparently new-found cultural sensitivity will also remind him how to make good movies again.