David Leitch, the director of Bullet Train, and Kotaro Isaka, the author of the original Japanese novel the film is based on, both spoke out against the decision to place non-Japanese actors while still filming the film in Japan.
Bullet Train, a Japanese film, has received backlash for using non-Japanese actors in a Japanese novel, the most striking of which is Brad Pitt's leading role in Ghost in the Shell (2017), or the casting of white actors and actresses as Egyptian royalty in Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014).
However, the author of the novel has defended the bullet train's casting choices in an interview with The New York Times. In the interview, author Kotaro Isaka said that the characters in his novel are ethnically malleable and that they are not even Japanese, and that the Japanese setting is not necessary to the plot.
According to Leitch, the group debated where to set the film. Perhaps it could be Europe, or maybe it might be a different part of Asia? The film's multiracial cast would benefit from its international nature, which includes White, Black, and Asian actors playing international roles in the United States, Germany, Mexico, and Japan.
Several Asian American advocacy organizations have spoken out about their disappointment with the casting choices. Non-Japanese actors such as Pitt, Sandra Bullock, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are a symptom of the problematic idea that Asian actors in the leading roles cannot produce a blockbuster, starting with Crazy Rich Asians and continuing till Shang Chi.
Fans on Twitter have particularly criticized the choice to shoot the film in Japan and place white actors in leading roles, arguing that the decisions would be less offensive if the whole film was shot in the United States, where the cast would be more authentic. Most at issue is the decision to cast Pitt in the leading Bullet Train role, which seems to be completely unnecessary given the wealth of exceptionally talented actors of Asian descent in the United States.
On August 5, 2022, Bullet Train is expected to arrive in cinemas.