Happy Birthday, George Takei + Original Sulu Takes On Hollywood ‘Whitewashing’

Today is the birthday for Star Trek’s original Hikaru Sulu. George Takei is now 74  years young and still going strong. We here at TrekMovie wish George a happy birthday, and so we have some fun vids and catch up with the latest from "Oh, my Takei" including his new campaign against Hollywood "whitewashing" and a new clip from his new show Supah Ninjas.


Happy Birthday, George Takei – classic Takei videos

Today for George’s birthday, we take a look at some fun videos of George, from YouTube.

By the way, did you know George has been an avid advocate of mass transportation? He was even a member of the Los Angeles Transit board and he turned down a voice role on the Simpsons because it made fun of monorails, really. Here is a video of George (in Star Trek uniform) from 1984 promoting the Milwaukee Transit system (via CoasterChild).

Also, did you know that George appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation? Well actually not really, but he did appear on the Star Trek: Generation Enterprise D set to shoot a special promo for Paramount Home Video in 1993, check it out in this Birthday Flashback (thanks to our friend Veron Wilmur).

One of the best things about George Takei is that is a good sport. As a regular guest on the Howard Stern show, George is often the source of much humor, and he has even embraced the famous "Sulu Dance" song, using clips of his audio book:

Takei takes on Hollywood ‘whitewashing’ with Akira

A few weeks TrekMovie reported that Star Trek’s Chris Pine, along with a number of other actors, were on the short list to appear in a live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga comic Akira. The short list of anglo actors (which also included Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix lined up to play the characters Tetsuo or Kaneda caught the attention of George Takei, wondering why Hollywood wasn’t looking at Asian actors to play Asian characters.

Takei replied let his feelings known on Twitter, including linking to a petition  "Akira epic fail–all actors up for Kaneda & Tetsuo are white? Sign & RT the petition here: http://ow.ly/4ALY4." Takei’s "anti-Hollywood whitewashing" campaign has got the notice of some in the media. Just yesterday Takei was interviewed by the big gossip site PerezHilton, here is an excerpt:

Were you surprised to find out Warner Bros. is courting white leading men for roles in the adaptation of Akira?

George Takei: It’s not a surprise because that’s been a Hollywood tradition. For example, when I was very young, I read Pearl Buck’s epic novel of China, The Good Earth. And that film, all of the principal major roles were cast with Caucasians. As a matter of fact, Luise Rainer, who played the wife, won an Oscar for that. Paul Muni was her husband. It’s an old Hollywood tradition that we’ve always been battling, not just Hollywood but Broadway too, if you remember Miss Saigon and the furor over that. So, no, I really wasn’t surprised, but the audience has changed now, and I’m surprised Warner Bros. is not keeping up with the audience. The manga and anime phenomenon is mostly white in this country. It originated in Japan, and, of course, it has a huge Asian fan following. But it’s the multi-ethnic Americans who are fans of Akira and manga. The idea of buying the rights to do that and in fact change it seems rather pointless. If they’re going to do that, why don’t they do something
original, because what they do is offend Asians, number 1; number 2, they offend the fans. The same thing happened with M. Night Shyamalan. He cast his project [The Last Airbender] with non-Asians and it’s an Asian story, and the film flopped. I should think that they would learn from that, but I guess big studios go by rote, and the tradition in Hollywood has always been to buy a project, change it completely and flop with it. I think it’s pointless, so I thought I would save Warner Bros. a bit of failure by warning them of what will most likely happen if they continue in that vein.

George in Supah Ninjahs

George Takei seems to be everywhere these days. He is doing viral videos, he is helping Social Security promote their website, and he is back on TV. Takei is  in Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas, playing a holographic master teaching his grandson how to be a ninja. The show premiered last Saturday and airs every Saturday at 8:30 PM. Here is a new clip.


And here is an audio interview (from xxxX) with Take talking about Supah Ninjas.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Come ride with US, on the BUS

rofl lmfao

Happy Birthday, Mr. Takei! You make me glad to be Asian…sometimes.

By the way, does anyone know where I can find some DRAAAAEEH OATMEAL???

Oh my!

Jeez, i feel like we just celebrated his birthday a year ago.

Happy Birthday, George!

The issue of caucasian actors playing asian roles has been around for a long time; I remember the fuss when they hired David Carradine to play Caine in “Kung Fu” after turning Bruce Lee down for the role.

I’m glad, also, that the article didn’t use the word “orientals”. That’s been out for some time now – I first noticed it in a TV Guide article about Rosalind Chao (who, in her pre-Keiko O’Brien days, was a semi-regular on M*A*S*H). Asian, please.

I met Mr Takei at the SFX Weekender earlier this year and he’s a class act. Hope he has a great birthday.

I still hear people here in the Midwest say “orientals” on occasion. I’ve asked a few people who used this outdated term if they’d like to be called “occidental.” Their response:


Happy Birthday George Takei. Live long and prosper.

I agree with George on “The Last Airbender.” It is essentially a an Asian story, probably Chinese. (Link) Yet the main roles were played by white kids. Throw in som Indian actors and what you get is confusion. I mean here’s this Chinese story that doesn’t feature any Chinese. And trust me it’s not because I’m Chinese American. Would you cast a live action Mulan with a Caucasian actress? What really killed the movie was that it was silly and badly directed. Addding insult to injury it was a terrible 3D conversion also.

As for supporting public transportation, George is right again. I wish here in Cincinnati the public transportation was better. In Boston, it’s great. Buses. Trains. Subway. You can get from the deep suburbs in Boston to downtown. The subway can take you to the airport. Public transport helps poor people travel. And it preserves the environment.

But what is up with the Shatner feud? I keedd. I keeed.


George. Happy Birthday. May you live long and prosper.

On George’s VHS ad.

Oh, oh. I feel old. I still have individual episodes of Star Trek TNG, DS9 and Voyager on VHS. Heck with Blu-Ray, DVD might be going obsolete. Hey CBS could you reduce the price of the Trek TV series so I can start collecting them again.

Happy Birthday Mr Takei
Paramount should have give you an Excelsior series.

Live Long and Prosper George

Here’s to many more years of that classic delivery of “Oh My….”

And that great laugh. All the best, George Takei! ;-)


I wonder if Chris Pine is interested in making this movie … Akira!

:-) :-)

happy B-day!!

It’s nice to know that Hollywood enjoys LOSING money with all of this “whitewashing.”

Poor WB. I’m sure they paid Toho a pretty penny and they’re pleased as punch. I heard a rumor that the guys in Tokyo calculated that it would cost at least three oku yen (a bit less than $300 million) to transform “Akira” into a decent live-action film. Rather than take that huge risk, they sold the rights to WB. In doing so, it was just like robbing a bank without all the fuss.

Well done, Toho. It looks as though you’ve earned a huge profit from a project you already know won’t fly as live action, managed to insult fans worldwide and made WB look stupid and inept. Good job!

**ROTFLMAO hysterically at this ridiculousness***

Chris Fine…er… Pine! No matter how much they offer you, stay away from that project!

It’s interesting, because though I am a black fan, I know that this kind of white-washing is far more acceptable in Hollywood for Asians, than it would be for a canonically black character (though, that does go on too).

I think it’s because for some odd, jacked-up, reason, the predominant prejudice against Asian-Americans, comes in the form of “foreignalizing” (yeah I made up that word, and what?!) them.

They simply aren’t seen as American enough to play American roles. Which is hilariously sad, when you think about how proud George Takei is of his country, despite his time in an internment camp.

What’s with George calling “Avatar: The Last Airbender” an asian story when it’s a U.S. originated show, though influenced by asian literature?

“18. Christopher Arnold – April 20, 2011
What’s with George calling “Avatar: The Last Airbender” an asian story when it’s a U.S. originated show, though influenced by asian literature?”

The very genre is Asian, it happens in a Asian culture kind of fictional world, is inspired by it, and all of the characters are Asian.
It doesn’t matter what race the guy who wrote it is or what country he came from.

Takei didn’t like the “Monorail” episode of the Simpsons? Clearly the man has no taste. Are you saying it was supposed to be Takei instead of Nimoy? That wouldn’t have been half as funny.

Nimoy: “Do you even know who I am?”
Quimby: “Weren’t you one of the Little Rascals?”

Nimoy: “The cosmic ballet… goes on”

When George mentioned Asians on Broadway, I immediately thought of “The World of Suzie Wong”. I wonder why he didn’t mention that one?

I think George is a bit over sensitive. This has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with contextualization. People generally identify best with characters that they can imagine themselves being. It’s the same reason all my favorite novels or stories revolve around male characters (my wife is the exact opposite preferring female characters.) I know I have thoroughly enjoyed a book when while not reading the book, I’m picturing myself as the hero. If your biggest audience is European or American, it’s quick to realize why they would choose white characters to replace Asian. It’s the same reason people throughout the western world made Jesus look like a white Italian or worse yet, a blue eyed Englishman (forgetting he was really Jewish).

It’s not intentional, it’s not racist, it’s just the egocentric nature of people focused on themselves and not others.

Hollywood, with it’s multitude of marketers, know this and research how they can make more money.

Really, the only surprise to me is that the research hasn’t yet proven that Asia spends more money on movies then Europe and America. When it does, be sure, you’ll probably see the end of this, “whitewashing.”

Actually, one small revision to my above point. I think this is true today. 30 or 40 years ago, it was mostly racism.

Um, sorry, but it still is.
And just because the audience was predominately white, that doesn’t mean they should have swallowed it and supported the movie. Especially not the kids/young adults, they are supposed to know better.
What he also didn’t count on is that almost every fan of Avatar is also a fan of anime in general, and an anime fan won’t take that kind of bullcrap.

Btw, what kind of a person finds it necessary for the characters to look like him/her or else they can’t enjoy a story? o.O

Actually #5, I was corrected this past week when I used the term “Asian”. I was told it was also offensive. I was offered no other buzzword to replace it with. Not sure where to go from here.

“Are you saying it was supposed to be Takei instead of Nimoy?”
Yes. They mentioned this in the commentary track on the DVD.

Happy Birthday Mr. Takei…Would love to see George as Sulu one more time.

P.S. What is it about these TOS stars who are in their 70’s and 80’s, but look 20 years younger? God bless them.

George is an old school ‘class act,’ and it was wonderful to hear his guest stint on the Stern show a couple of weeks ago. It amazes me how he can effortlessly mix his courtly manners into jaw-droppingly open and honest discussions of, ahem, adult topics. He’s hysterical, adorable, and above all, a genuinely nice and kind person. It’s great to have watched him become more popular professionally over the last few years.

I hope his birthday turned out to be an honorary Sunday ;-)

Met George a few weeks ago and he is fantastic! Happy Birthday!

@ 22 Capitalism Rules Supreme

You say, “People generally identify best with characters that they can imagine themselves being. ….I know I have thoroughly enjoyed a book when while not reading the book, I’m picturing myself as the hero.” Really?

Okay, let’s take my Mulan example. Let’s say you enjoyed a book about Mulan and we make a live action movie.. And let’s say you’re a middle aged white male. Forgive me if you’re not. It’s a hypothetical. Are you saying you’re picturing yourself as the hero? So we have a scene where the Chinese generals are saying to you , “Hey little girl you can’t be a soldier.” Are you saying you are picturing yourself as a middle aged white male playing that part? Really?

You then say, “If your biggest audience is European or American, it’s quick to realize why they would choose white characters to replace Asian.” That comment has no respect for American audiences if we’re talking about white American audiences.

I mean the American TV series Kung Fu defeats your rationale. That came out in the seventies. Yes, it featured David Carradine as Caine. But his character was half Chinese. And he looks Asian anyway. The flashback scenes in China didn’t try to white wash. Keye Luke played Master Po. Phillip Ahn planed Master Kan. I don’t recall any Chinese actors in “The Last Airbender” and again it’s a Chinese themed story.

Fans of Akira know it takes place in a future Japan. And these characters are Japanese. I mean characters with names like Akira, and Shotaro Kaneda don’t sound like John Smith? (LInk.) You’re going to have white actors play these parts in a Japanese story?

And by the way, you’re argument that it’s made for white audiences makes no economic sense. You are correct that Asian markets are big also. So it would not be appealing to watch a Japanese story with white actors since it’s like Mulan being played by a middle aged white person. I’m a Chinese American and to me it smacks of fear of Asians. And I experience racial comments all the time so don’t say times have changed or that racism is dead. It’s better now, no doubt. But it’s not dead. The only reason to white wash Akira is racial. Fear that whites won’t watch Asians.


Happy Birthday, George Takeisama! If I were a gay man, I’d chase you around the room (Oh My!)

All love and peace to you. See you in Vegas!

Happy Birthday from someone who ALMOST was VFX Supervisor on Supah Ninja’s


Happy Birthday George! Loved meeting you at the National Theatre in London years ago.

Couldn’t agree with you more over Akira. Come on Hollywood! Get your acts together!

@22 — You’re just playing a game with semantics. Saying that people are only likely to identify with characters similar to themselves is a description of xenophobia and chauvinism. When applied to race, xenophobia and chauvinism make up the definition of racism. So it’s like you’re saying, “People are just racist by nature. I know because that’s how I am, and that’s how everyone should be, too. Just deal with it.”

BTW, I am male and I enjoy female-centric fiction at least as much or more than male-centric fiction. The same goes for racial criteria.

I agree with George about the casting of Akira. It makes little sense to me not to cast the main characters as Asian or Asian-American.

The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933) is a great movie, but they cast a Caucasian actor and just give him “slanted” or almond-shaped eyes. It it a perfect illustration, to my mind, of how that choice seriously detracts from the quality of the film. I’ve never seen any of the Charlie Chan movies, but I imagine they stand out in this regard as well.


It’s also quite insulting to white audiences as well, insisting that they can only be so narrow-minded.

…That they have some kind of built-in prejudice where-in they can only identify with people who look like them.

Really?? So, all those fans of Yoda, don’t exist (not even human to boot!)?

Too bad some, like #22 don’t even know it, because they have the luxury of the choice of accepting it (since there’s is the predominant image) hook-line-and-sinker.

Hollywood is a money machine. You know that.
“Valkerie,” anyone? Not just Tom (about as Nazi as gefilte fish) Cruise but most of the cast… was, well, teutonic-lite.
“The Conqueror” – John Wayne as Genghis Khan. Ooops, sorry. I meant Khaaaaaaaaaaan.
We’ve seen recent articles on several of the TOS players playing indians in westerns. Oh, and I’ve seen Ricardo Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan Montalban play an indian on Gunsmoke reruns. Looks like he wore his Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan wig for that one.
Natalie Wood wearing shoe polish to play Maria in West Side Story.
Don’t even get me started on Mickey Rooney and whatever the hell he was supposed to be in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

So, yes. George is right. But, it’s not like this is anti-Asian only. It’s bad film-making, with a profit motive built around star power.

Although I don’t disagree, here’s an idea – why doesn’t Japan, Korea or China make live action movies of their own products instead of selling them to Hollywood? DUH!!!!!!!!

I don’t do Manga or Anime so I have no horse in this race but Hollywood isn’t going to change unless they are out done by the Asian markets. Whining about it won’t solve a thing.

As far as Mr. Takei’s appearance in Supa Ninja (hate the slang) his effeminate ninja is laughable. He should have played it ‘straight’ like he did Kaito Nakamura on “HEROES”. He’s not very comedic.

I must say, George wore the TMP admiral’s uniform (even the ersatz version) quite well! He was so young back then.

Shatner is very pro public transportation as well. He thinks everyone should ride the bus……he just thinks George should sit in the back.

For people who say this “isn’t racist,” then, what is? Not that long ago, people like George Takei himself were herded up like cattle and shipped off to the middle of nowhere because of their ancestry.

There seems to be a huge taboo these days against calling anything racist, as if that will make the problem go away. Stand up for something and call out Hollywood for discriminating against Asian and Asian-American actors. They took 21, a story about a majority Asian group of MIT students, and put white actors in all the lead roles. Is it based on marketing? Yes. Is it racist? Yes. They are making casting decisions based on the idea that Asian actors are inferior actors, even when it comes to telling stories about Asian people. How is that not racist? If that’s not racist, then what is?

Yes, it’s racist, but it works, because half the audience is too dumb or apathetic to do anything about it, and the other half is actively defending and rationalizing Hollywood’s continued unwillingness to give Asian and Asian-American actors a fair chance.


Are you calling Mr. Shatner a racist? If so, that’s not cool, especially without any proof to back up your “statement”. Next time, keep your dumb comments to yourself!

In his book “To the Stars” George himself talks about being given a hard time because there are no Asians in Shakespeare, yet he did Shakespeare in theater school.
He also talks about that in general he is not against the better actor getting the role.
But when a predominately white cast plays a predominately non white people it is just wrong.
Though Ricardo was not the right race to play Khan Noonien Singh…

Whoa, when did Sulu get issued the “Peguin Dress Greys”?

Happy Birthday George! The original and best Sulu!


Politics aside, all I can tell you is that if you and your wife are limiting your consumption of novels and stories to those that feature people you can readily identify with (even right down to their sex!), you’re definitely the poorer for it.


Yep. Not for me to tell anyone what they should post, but I would think that the last place you would read a sentiment like “people are tribal by nature and there’s nothing to be done about it” would be on a forum devoted to Star Trek.

Since AKIRA is set in Japan, the casting of non-Asian actors doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. On the other hand, I’m not sure I see much sense in a live-action remake in any case. The 1988 AKIRA is a dazzling landmark in film animation, but its timeline and technology are sorely dated by now, and even an updated production probably wouldn’t bring much more to the “future urban hell” genre than audiences have already seen in films from BLADE RUNNER to the long version of AVATAR. I tend to agree with #16 that Toho came out the winner in that deal, though a successful film could prove both of us wrong.

Oh–and, Happy Birthday, Mr. Takei. :-)

Happy Birthay to you George and many more!

Meeting him at the Vegas Con was great, he is so fan friendly. You may have a long wait to get his autograph, but it is worth every minute with talking to other fans in line. Once we got to him and he signed the photo, I got to say what every kid (adult now) wanted to say: “Warp speed Mr. Sulu” He looked up at me,.smiled and said “Aye, aye captain” Priceless moment for me… even my wife got a kick out it.

A truly great actor who knows how to treat fans. I cannot wait for this years Con, they have a Photo Op with George and John Cho–the 2 Sulu’s.

Hollywood whitewashing doesn’t only apply to Asians. A recent example was the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan in Prince of Persia.

#40 Pull the tricorder out of where the sun doesn’t shine, and grow a sense of humor.

There was also that movie “21” that came out, about the MIT poker players who counted cards, and it was supposedly “based on a true story.” Except that in the true story, all the people were actually Asians, who were transformed into white people for the movie. In fact, the only Asian character in “21” was the goofy, idiotic comic relief. Offensive? I’d say so…

Or even that failed Street Fighter movie, “The Legend of Chun-Li,” where they got a white girl to play someone who was obviously supposed to be Asian. Wtf? That didn’t make any sense to me.

Hollywood may finally be crawling away from racist portrayals of African-Americans, Native Americans, and other ethnicities (albeit VERY slowly), but it seems like they’re still comfortable giving Asians the short end of the stick.

happy bday georgie