Hollywood Won’t Adapt Bestselling Novel Because They Refuse to Cast an Asian Lead

A movie adaptation of the New York Times Bestseller “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt” would have been possible had the main protagonist been White and not Asian, the book’s author, Michael Lewis, revealed.

The controversial non-fiction book, which was published in 2014, investigated the phenomenon of high-frequency trading (HFT) on Wall Street and talked about how a new exchange, called IEX was developed to level the trading playing field in the United States.

In a recent interview with The Washington Post’s Joel Aschenbach at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Lewis explained how there would never be a Hollywood movie about it.

“The problem is Brad Katsuyama (IEX’s founder),” Lewis was quoted as saying. “There were emails back and forth about how impossible it was to make a movie with an Asian lead.”

Lewis revealed how Hollywood studio executives were worried of the possible public outrage should they cast a White person to play the lead.

“They’ve gotten to the point where they’re nervous about making an Asian guy a white guy. A decade ago they weren’t; they would have just done that.”

Lewis was referencing the leaked email exchanges of Sony Pictures in 2014 which talked about the movie. Based on the emails, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin was supposed to adapt “Flash Boys”, but his then agent, Ari Emanuel, turned down the movie.

In an email sent to producer Amy Pascal in November of 2014, Sorkin said he was skeptical about how Flash Boys would do as a movie, saying, “There aren’t any Asian movie stars.”

Sorkin, who was then working on a Steve Jobs biopic wrote:

“If I turned in a terrific draft of Flash Boys, why would it have a better chance of getting made than Steve Jobs? The protagonist is Asian-American (actually Asian-Canadian) and there aren’t any Asian movie stars. There’s no precedent for stories about high-frequency trading creating a stampede to the box office. Aren’t you asking me to spend another year writing a movie you won’t make and sign a contract you may or may not honor?”

Lewis, however, believes that the character and the story itself is enough to drive the movie.

“It’s crazy because the whole point is he’s an unknown in real life,” Lewis said. “You could echo it in the movie, you could surround him with– you could create a person.”

Sorkin has worked o one of Lewis’ books before, resulting in the 2004 film “Moneyball
, which ended up being nominated for the Oscar for best-adapted screenplay that became a critical success. Another adaptation of Lewis’ work was “The Big Short”, which also received nominations and praises from critics.

Feature image via Wikimedia Commons/Justin Hoch (CC BY 2.0)

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