Short Circuit actor Fisher Stevens regrets playing an Indian character

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

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Short Circuit is probably one of the most memorable films of the '80s, thanks mostly to the likable talking robot, Johnny 5. Released on May 9, 1986, Johnny 5 still feels like a next-level movie star, brought to life via a combination of then-cutting-edge special effects, as well as old-fashioned puppeteering and a solid vocal performance from Tim Blaney. While Johnny 5 has continued to age well for most fans of the film, one element of the movie that seems frozen in time is Fisher's Stevens performance as Indian engineer Ben Jabituya. Fisher Stevens, a white man, plays up the heavily stereotyped role for laughs and would continue to do in the 1988 sequel but now Stevens says he would never do that part again today.

During a talk with "Yahoo Entertainment", Stevens said, about the role, "it definitely haunts me. I still think it's a really good movie, but I would never do that part again. The world was a different place in 1986, obviously." What's interesting is that Stevens revealed that Ben wasn't an Indian character when he first auditioned for the film. Stevens says "I was originally cast as a white dude" but, after winning the role, the film's creative team made the choice to change Ben's ethnicity without changing the performer who was cast to play him. Stevens explains that he didn't want to walk away from the role because he was a young actor eager for his big break.

"They rewrote it, and were like, 'Can you play it?' I said, 'Yeah, I can do it. Let me learn.' It's a weird thing when you're 21 and you're trying to get a job."

Stevens did try to mitigate the decision to cast a White person in an Indian role by trying his best to study up on Indian culture to play the part as authentically as he could. The actor even moved to India for a month ahead of filming Short Circuit 2. Even though he did what he could bring authenticity to the part, he still expressed regret for taking it on because his role has been used numerous times as an example of Hollywood whitewashing.

"I have friends who are Indian, and they're still mad at me. They're like, 'What were you thinking?' My wife [Alexis Bloom] isn't happy about it either. She keeps telling me, 'Look what you did!'"

Stevens joins Hank Azaria, who recently expressed regret voicing Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons for so many years, in feeling some type of regret for taking on a role that's not culturally appropriate. Azaria has officially stopped voicing the character Azaria said in a recent interview with "The Hollywood Reporter" that "I was speaking at my son's school, I was talking to the Indian kids there because I wanted to get their input. A 17-year-old… he's never even seen 'The Simpsons' but knows what Apu means. It's practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country."

Short Circuit centers around an experimental military robot that is struck by lightning and gains human-like intelligence. In addition to Stevens, the film stars Ally Sheedy, Steve Guttenberg, Austin Pendleton, and G.W. Bailey. Made for $15 million, the film proved to be a solid hit in 1986, grossing $40.7 million by the end of its run. 

Do YOU think Fisher Stevens should regret playing an Indian character in Short Circuit?

Source: Yahoo Entertainment

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