'Geisha' Filmmakers Defend Casting - Yahoo! News:
"The makers of 'Memoirs of a Geisha' expected to be lauded for creating the first big-budget Hollywood movie with Asian actors in every leading role. Instead, they find themselves defending casting decisions that have inflamed historical tensions between Japan and China.
For months, the Internet has been filled with vitriolic debate over cultural insensitivity, and Zhang has been denounced in China for her starring role. The arguments boil down to this: A movie about Japanese culture should have a Japanese actress in the lead.
The filmmakers, however, thought that would be shortsighted and discriminatory. Producers Douglas Wick ("Gladiator") and Lucy Fisher, and director
Rob Marshall ("Chicago"), say the casting was an exhaustive, meticulous process that considered acting ability, star power and physical traits.
"Some Japanese actresses didn't even want to audition, because they couldn't speak English and were too afraid to try to take it on," Fisher said.
...The debate is somewhat perplexing considering that actors have been playing characters of different nationalities throughout the history of film.
"When you saw 'Zorba the Greek,' and you saw Anthony Quinn play Zorba, was that odd to you because he was Irish and Mexican?" Marshall said. 'Or when you saw 'Dr. Zhivago,' and you saw Omar Sharif, who's Egyptian-born, play a Russian, was that something that threw you?"
Gong said she chooses roles based on substance, not race.
"As actors, we seek roles that challenge and inspire us," she said in a statement to The Associated Press."