Star of the Oscar-nominated 'Slumdog Millionaire' and the teen drama/wish fulfillment TV series 'Skins' Dev Patel has been selected to replace actor Jesse McCartney as the lead antagonist in M. Night Shyamalan's big screen adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon animation 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' (presumably the title was truncated to avoid confusion with James Cameron's upcoming sci-fi epic).
Entertainment Weekly has the story.
A source tells EW.com that McCartney (pictured, left) was already involved in rehearsals and training and was only replaced after he didn't "mesh" with the rest of his cast mates. The source adds that McCartney still received his full fee for only a few weeks of pre-production work. Shyamalan begins shooting in mid-March with Patel as his bad guy and Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone (Twilight), and Jessica Jade Anders filling out the roles of the four protagonists.
Shyamalan and Paramount Pictures have been under fire for their initial all-white casting choices that EW announced in this blog back in December. That post resulted in more than 1,000 complaints that the filmmakers were completely ignoring the television show's origins, which are heavily steeped in Asian cultures. Maybe Paramount got the message.
It's strange that a film being helmed by a director of Indian birth should come under fire for apparently racist casting choices. Hey, if they can cast a white kid as Goku in Dragonball (which is actually Asian in origin, rather than just being 'heavily steeped in Asian cultures') then this should be a no-brainer. It stands to reason that the mainstream audience would prefer to see relatable (i.e. white) actors in their blockbusters. At least it looks like they're heading in the right direction.