It’s not like Mara was unaware of the controversy. More than 96,000 people signed a petition calling on studio Warner Bros. to cast a real Native American in the role.
“[It’s a] tricky thing to deal with,” she told the UK’s Independent newspaper.
“There were two different periods; right after I was initially cast, and the reaction to that, and then the reaction again when the film came out.”
In fact, on two previous occasions the part was portrayed as Native American–in JM Barrie’s 1911 novel “Peter and Wendy,” and in the 1953 Disney animated film “Peter Pan” based on the book.
The 2015 fantasy action-adventure family film, directed by Joe Wright, focuses on how protagonist Peter (Levi Miller) found his way to Neverland.
The also starred Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, Cara Delevigne and Garrett Hedlund.
The role of Great Chief Panther went to Jack Charles, an Australian actor with an Aboriginal background. Mara played his daughter.
Criticism followed the moving from its casting to its premiere. So few acting parts are available to Native Americans, critics were outraged Tiger Lily went to a white actress.
The film also had the misfortune to be released just as the #OscarsSoWhite controversy exploded.
For the second year in a row, Oscar nominees for the top acting awards are all Caucasian, despite a number of quality performances by minority actors. That led to renews charges of Hollywood “whitewashing.”
“I really hate, hate, hate that I am on that side of the whitewashing conversation, I really do,” Rooney said. “I don’t ever want to be on that side of it again. I can understand why people were upset and frustrated.”
Indeed, in other mis-castings, Emma Stone played the part of a woman who is supposed to be half Hawaiian and half Chinese in the movie “Aloha.”
Christian Bale played an obviously Semitic Moses in “Gods and Kings” and Johnny Depp played Cherokee Tonto in “The Lone Ranger.”
Most recently, British actor Joseph Fiennes, who is white, was cast to play late-pop singer Michael Jackson, who was decidedly African-American.
“Do I think all of the four main people in the film should have been white with blonde hair and blue eyes? No. I think there should have been some diversity somewhere,” Mara says of her movie.
The controversy will continue Oscar night. Several well-known African-American actors and directors are boycotting the event in protest.
Mara, who has been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award, says she will be attending.
The Oscars air live on ABC, Sunday, Feb 28.
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