Dev Patel replaces Jesse McCartney in 'The Last Airbender'

Slumdog Millionaire
protagonist Dev Patel will replace Jesse McCartney as the villain Prince Zuko in M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action kid flick The Last Airbender, a feature adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon kid series, according to an article published on Variety’s website Sunday night. What the story left out is that 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. A source tells that McCartney (pictured, left) left after rehearsals had already started. His rep says he had scheduling conflicts with his music tour. 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. Whether the Patel casting decision will satisfy the legions of angry fans is anyone’s guess, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

addCredit(“McCartney: Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic; Patel: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images”)


Comments (202 total) Add your comment
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  • Ceballos

    I’m not familiar with “Last Airbender” and I’m only going off of the information in this article, so I apologize in advance if what I’m about to say comes off as an oversimplification:
    So Paramount added an ethnic/Indian/British (whatever you want to characterize Patel as) to the production, but he’s the bad guy. And all the good guys are white? I’m just sayin’ that you’d think with Slumdog’s success that studios would realize this country is perfectly fine with having non-white actors as protagonists or (gasp) an entire non-white cast!

    • Karl

      *Spoiler Alert* Zuko becomes a good guy, and pretty much key to overthrowing the real villain.

      • Drew

        They’ll replace him with a white actor when he becomes a good guy. Duh!

  • John

    I still have no interest in seeing this film.

  • John

    Note to Ceballos. It amazes me how Hollywood can fall all over themselves to support Obama like crazy. Yet in their own industry they can be so narrow in their thinking. Simply amazing.

  • Vermillion

    Person of color, still the villain. LAME.

  • Cecilia

    It’s a step in the right direction. I can see Ang being white but Katara and Saka are definitely not…there brown! They should not be played by white actors. I’m so glad Jess McCartney is not longer in it, but the casting is till seriously messed up!

  • kingofcities

    Sorry but it’s a ignorant complaint. They never say in the cartoon what nationality anyone is. The characters (ESPECIALY Ang, the lead role) all look white for the most part. The voice actors are all white except for two characters and only one of those has an Asian accent. Lots of Asian themes and philosophy of course but it all takes place in a fictional world. And yet nobody protested Nickelodeon over this. But now that it’s a movie a bunch of bored people with too much time on their hands feel the need to b***h. Boo hoo. It’s just such a stupid thing to complain about. Enough about race already. How about the idea that maybe they should just make a movie with the best actors for the parts, period?

    • Sarah`

      Not to mention the fact that if all these bored adults would stop making such a big deal about race children would to and maybe just maybe we could make some progress with racism. You are not helping your cause when you jump at monsters that aren’t there you only make yourself look crazy and ignorant.

  • Sally

    That’s ridiculous, I can’t believe there are no asians in the movie.

  • Sally in Chicago

    Ceballos: Huh? What the heck are you talking about?
    So you feel every actor person of color (black,Indian, Mexican) is cast as the villain in movies.
    Assinine thinking.

  • Melgaye

    Yeah..still not enough..Sokka and Katara should be played by Inuits and Ang..well they can keep him white if they want..just make sure they have a great actor who can fight. Zuko is a pivotal character..not just a villian, he’s a prince “misunderstood” and I think Dev could pull it off.

  • Ceballos

    Like I said, I don’t watch the show so I don’t know as much about it as other people. What I’m saying is that there appeared to be a GREAT opportunity to cast some non-white actors in this high-profile, big-budget venture. In my opinion, that would have been a refreshing change, especially for kids who will see this movie and don’t necessarily always see themselves represented that way (especially as protagonists). I know when I was little, I loved seeing Puerto Ricans on screen (and it was an extra thrill when they weren’t gang members!)
    Don’t get me wrong. I love all people and actors who are wonderful and talented. It may even turn out that Noah Ringer and Nicola Peltz (whoever they are) will be wonderful in this movie, and the best choices for the part. However, this just seems like a big opportunity to mix things up with a legitimate reason (as opposed to projects that cast a black actor in a traditionally white role to be “edgy.”

  • Ceballos

    I was afraid that some people might take my comment and leap to the conclusion you did. I didn’t mean to make any blanket statement about ALL movies, just about this specific one. And the fact of that matter appears to be in this specific case the producers seemed to have major leeway as far as what types of people they could have cast and they first decided to have an all-white cast (which is fine by me actually). However, when they decided to add a person of color he’s the bad guy.
    Bottom line: I wasn’t so much saying that “every person of color is cast as the villain in movies.” I was mostly fretting that not enough people of color seem to get cast as the “hero.”
    This particular project seemed like a better chance than most to rectify that and Hollywood (as it usually does) appears to have played it safe.

  • caliban821

    Cellabos: Just to clarify in the case of this movie, the character of Prince Zuko while techncially a villain is the arguably the most important and pivotal character of this series. He has the most complex character and goes the furthest in development-much further than the hero Ang. Basically Dev Patel, the person of color, got the best part.
    And speaking as an asian person, I also never felt the series had any defined ethnic feel to the races of its characters.

  • john t.

    one down, four to go? i won’t be completely satisfied until the casting directors get their act together and find actors that actually look like the characters. i can almost guarantee that the little kids who watch Avatar will know that the actors look nothing like the cartoon.

  • newtrim

    Prince Zuko is just a pale as Ang and the only 2 that are darker are the water benders. Jesse McCartny, w/black hair and a scar is a much better fit. We have to remember that it’s a film adaptation of a children’s show. If there were to be a remake of Superman, we wouldn’t all of the sudden decide that it’s not racially diverse enough and make him latino, would we?

    • Guy

      Except that Superman has always been depicted as Caucasian. This movie is tantamount to making a live action version of “Mulan” and casting a white lead. This isn’t about injecting ethnicity into a movie that doesn’t call for it, but rather, pulling ethnicity out of a movie where it was there to begin with.

  • Shedagurl

    I guess it’s a step in the right direction, but it sure would have been nice if Paramount had chosen to do thr right thing from the beginning, if not a full Asian cast, then at least a multicultural one.

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