Mark Wahlberg In Talks To Star in Remake of “The Crow”

Will Mark Wahlberg reprise the role made famous by Brandon Lee?

I caught a headline on CNN this afternoon saying that Mark Wahlberg is currently in talks to star in a remake of “The Crow”. Asian Americans (and pretty much anyone else who was around for the 90’s) might remember that the original “Crow” was played by Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee. Eight days prior to the wrap of filming, Lee was fatally shot in an on-set accident involving improperly constructed dummy rounds fired from a prop gun; Lee was shot in one of the scenes and died hours later in hospital. Filming of “The Crow” was completed with Lee’s stunt doubles standing in for him in the remaining scenes.

Lee was wildly praised in “The Crow”, with Roger Ebert predicting that, based on the strength of his performance, Lee “might have become an action star, had he lived.”

For me, “The Crow” has a special place in my childhood. Heck, I had the above image as a poster in my college dorm room. As a teen, I remember finding particular solace in the movie: in comparison to other examples of Asian Americans in films and on television, Brandon Lee’s Eric Draven was recognizably Asian American without having a particular reason for being Asian American. Then — and now — Asian American characters in cinema often seem to require some excuse written into the script to justify their ethnicity, as if the character was only made Asian American for a reason. Consequently, we are the martial artist, or the translator, or the immigrant, or the triad member or some other stereotypically Asian thing. Often times, Asian American characters are shown drawing upon their heritage — their knowledge of Chinatown or their ability to speak Chinese — as if to further emphasize our Other-ness. And while it’s not always a bad thing — take, for example, the multiple Asian American characters on the current Hawaii 5-0 who prvide insight into native Hawaiian culture and language — sometimes it’s refreshing to see an Asian American character who can just be.

Brandon Lee’s Eric Draven was one of the first examples I can remember of  an Asian American playing a role that wasn’t specifically colour-coded to suit his skin colour. In fact, the inspiration for Lee’s film role — Eric Draven of the comic book series — is not Asian American at all: he is based on American rock musician Iggy Pop. In “The Crow”, Draven isn’t re-written to justify Lee’s hapa-ness; Draven is just a gothic undead rocker with a taste for vengeance, who happens to be biracially Asian American.

So it’s with all that in mind that I feel a little sadness at the thought of Wahlberg, or any other non-Asian American, reprising the role of “The Crow”. It’s not as if the casting of Wahlberg or another White actor will be yet another example of Hollywood White-washing of an Asian American role (as we saw with 21 and The Last Airbender), but I’m still unhappy to see Hollywood moving past Lee’s iconic role in this remake without at least some discussion about what Lee’s performance meant to Asian Americans. 

But, on the up side, maybe Wahlberg can draw upon his personal experience in the music industry in playing the undead Eric Draven?

Update (10/21): N reminded us in the comments that Mark Wahlberg’s “turning point” moment, which put him on his path to Hollywood, involved a hate crime against Vietnamese Americans. Wahlberg was 16, and high on cocaine and alcohol, when he assaulted two Vietnamese American men. As a result of the incident, one of the two victims was blinded in one eye. Wahlberg was arrested after he confessed to officers on the scene; at that time, he also shouted racist slurs including “slant-eyed gooks”. Wahlberg pled guilty to two counts of criminal contempt, was sentenced to two years in jail. Of that sentence, Wahlberg did 45 days at Deer Island prison before being released.

It was during his time in jail that Wahlberg bulked up and decided to pursue a career in entertainment. The above is based on the Suffolk County Public Criminal Record of the incident, retrieved by Model Minority and re-posted in an article. That article is now defunct, but was reproduced in this forum thread on Asia Finest.

Which makes discussion of Wahlberg reprising the role made famous by Brandon Lee go, in my books, from disappointing (for the reasons described in the above post) to criminally insulting.

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