Annihilation: Natalie Portman Says She Didn't Know Her Character Was Whitewashed

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But the characters in the novel I read and adapted were not given names or ethnicities.

MANAA board member Alieesa Badreshia blasted Garland in a statement this week saying: "He exploits the story but fails to take advantage of the true identities of each character".

Natalie Portman in "Annihilation".

During an interview with Yahoo! "I actually didn't know that". "Hollywood rarely writes prominent parts for Asian American and American Indian characters, and those roles could've bolstered the careers of women from those communities".

In the sequel novel to Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation (the book on which the film is based), Portman's character Lena is described as having "high cheekbones that spoke to the strong Asian heritage on one side of her family", while Leigh's Dr. Ventress is written as half-white, half-Native American. "She was so eloquent in her encouragement of these women to use their voices and move on with their lives to do all of the lovely things that they can do and are destined to do", said Portman, who is a vocal supporter of the #TimesUp movement and has spoken publicly about her own disturbing experiences working in the film industry.

In the first book, none of the characters are named but are identified by their fields of expertise (biology, linguistics, anthropology, etc.). After dealing with warring producers and Paramount offloading global release of the movie to Netflix, the adaptation of the critically acclaimed sci-fi novel is under fire from two advocacy groups for whitewashing two of its core characters. "At the same time, as a movie, I'm hoping we can move past that and just be seen as a good movie".

Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny in "Annihilation". It isn't until VanderMeer's later books that readers learn their ethnicities.

Filmmaker Garland told Yahoo in December he worked exclusively from the first book: "I knew at that time (I signed on to the project) there were supposed to be three books planned, but I didn't know (anything) about the other two", he said, before adding he took the movie adaptation in a totally new direction from the novel with author VanderMeer's blessing. And I thought, 'I'm not exactly sure how to adapt this, but I've got an idea.' And I just went with it. They're referred to only by their jobs such as the psychologist and the like. With VanderMeer's blessing, he decided to make a deliberately unfaithful adaptation of the novel.

The movie hits USA theaters on February 23 but, unusually, Paramount sold the global distribution rights - save for China and Canada - to Netflix, a move seen as an admission that the studio doesn't think it will sell overseas.