RB: You are Asian, and there is obviously a lot of Asian culture in this film. How did your own heritage work into your vision for this film? There was a bit of backlash from some fans as to some of the casting decisions—that more Asian-Americans weren't cast in certain roles. What do you think about that?
MNS: I get in trouble a lot for never thinking about agendas. I have no agenda. I go on just pure emotion, and it didn't even occur to me that there was a "correct" type of Asian to cast in this. The misunderstanding is that anime is an art form where the facial features are ambiguous. That's a fact. I didn't invent the art form; that's just what it is. And so, as it turns out, Aang looks just like Noah Ringer. As it turns out, Sokka looks just like Jackson Rathbone. What can I do? This is what it is. These are facts. I just cast the best people that came in.
The irony of this is that I'm really proud of being an Asian filmmaker, and I'm really proud of the diversity in this movie. I can say this is the most culturally diverse movie ever made without an even close second. By the time we're done with the three movies, it'll be so rich, every culture in the world will have been represented fully without agenda, with just love. Every single one of them. So it's ironic that even one human being would say this is an issue about the movie when this is its single greatest asset: We're bringing all the cultures of the world together in one story to talk to everyone. People in the Midwest are going to see a movie about a character named Aang, an avatar, which is about Hinduism and reincarnation and Buddhism and Taoism and Shintoism and you name it, and they don't even know it! They don't care. It's just the universality of the story. So it's an incredible thing. The only people not represented in our movie are blonde people. So those are the people that should be really complaining! Everybody else is all good. They're going to get a full nation to their credit and heroes and amazing storylines. Everyone will be happy.
I love looking at the movie poster and seeing Noah and Dev [Patel] back-to-back and my name up top. It just makes me think, "When else could this have happened in the world?"