“We’re wiping the slate clean,” says Henry Golding of his latest film Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins.
“We’re starting from a macro view of one of the most iconic characters, and understanding who he was as a person before the mask. The challenges that he’s come across, the lessons that he has to learn the hard way, and perhaps the decisions, or the wrong decisions, that he’s chosen, which led him to some unsavoury people.”
The dashing actor, and now action hero, chatted to Katherine Tulich, host of HOYTS Cinemas’ Coming Soon, about stepping into the role of Snake Eyes: the mysterious character created by comic book legend Larry Hama.
Of course, in the comic books, Snake Eyes is both faceless and mute, so the filmmakers decided to explore his origin story, before his voice was lost, as he learns the ways of the ninja warrior courtesy of Japan’s ancient Arashikage clan.
As you would expect from a GI Joe film, the action is non-stop and executed perfectly.
“As long as you push through that first week, your body adapts really quickly,” Golding said of the rigorous training required to perform the epic fight scenes.
“So we did like two months worth of training and it became it was easier and easier so that it became more natural. So yeah, it’s it really is just about committing.”
And commit he does, as do the incredible supporting cast which includes our very own Samara Weaving as Scarlett, with the Aussie actress telling POPSUGAR Australia, that the action sequences were for sure her favourite element of the film.
“They are so epic and cool and such a blast,” she said.
“But at the same time, there’s this really personal, grounded story of self-discovery watching Henry play Snake Eyes — like this sort of very relatable story of getting to know who you are and where you come from and personal growth and I think everyone can relate to that on some level.”
While the film might check all the boxes in terms of action, disappointingly, Golding’s casting drew criticism from some fans who argued that, historically, Snake Eyes was a white American military commando with blonde hair and blue eyes.
“Larry Hama gave us license to co-create with him the backstory that he always wanted to tell,” Golding told Inverse.
“People are like, ‘That’s not history, he’s white.’ Well, maybe Larry had to do that. Larry had to make it such an obvious story.”
It’s an argument echoed by Hama himself, who told The Latch of his own experiences being pigeonholed as an Asian actor, and that he didn’t find the backlash around Golding’s casting unexpected.
“I had to deal with what I had to work with,” Hama said. “It never really struck me until I got invited to San Diego for the big Comic-Con.
“I was doing a panel and this Asian kid at the back of the auditorium raises his hand to ask a question and said, ‘So tell me, Mr Hama, why is the most badass ninja in the entire world some white guy?’
“I was floored! I didn’t know how to answer him. I thought, you know, there seemed to be almost no way to fix that within the comic context.”
For Golding, the bottom line is that film casting should be open to actors of all races, no matter how the original character may have been written.
“It starts from conception, creating stories and characters anybody can play. Is it so important that your character has to be a particular race?” he said during his interview with Inverse.
“If it’s [the character’s] actions that drive the story, then anyone can play it. Anyone should play it. If you’re not serving justice to the page, then what’s the point?”
Hama elaborated on this point further during his conversation with The Latch, saying, “There’s a certain section sector of any fandom that’s toxic like that…One of the main objections is that it’s all some sort of social justice warrior plot or liberal plot.
“These characters that they claim to have loved all these years, you know, apparently were something that they never really understood.”
Referencing how many Marvel fans had also found similar issues with the film versions of characters from the X-Men such as Nick Fury, Hama reminded, “the whole concept was about others seeking acceptance, and others being discriminated against. The whole anti-mutant crusade stuff, all of that was an allegory and they never got it.
“If they say the same thing about GI Joe, then they never got it either, because it was always about inclusion on all fronts.”
Golding also describes the people who have objected to him taking on the coveted role as “toxic” saying, “It’s rubbish. We’re playing characters. Not their background.”
“It’s bonkers we’re still having those conversations when we’re fighting for something so much bigger. It’s toxic. We should be uplifting each other and rooting for the success of everyone. Not just a few because they’ve been lucky to be brought up in a certain location.”
Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins is now playing in HOYTS Cinemas.