Fisher Stevens’ character in Short Circuit wasn’t always supposed to be an Indian man. Ben was actually supposed to be a white grad student, but director John Badham decided that it’d be better to have the character be Indian. But in a move that makes absolutely no sense, instead of recasting the role to be played by an Indian actor, Badham kept Stevens in the role, and he donned brownface. Production went above and beyond to make Stevens look Indian, to the point where he looks and sounds unrecognizable, and actually passes as Asian. In fact, Aziz Ansari wrote in a New York Times piece from 2015 that before learning the actor is white, he considered Stevens to be one of the few representations of Indian men in film growing up. He noted his surprise when he found out that the character he’d looked up to was actually a white guy, who had to “sit every morning in a makeup chair and get painted an ‘Indian color’ before going on set and doing his ‘Indian voice.’” Ansari interviewed Stevens, who ultimately admitted that yes, an Indian man obviously should’ve been cast in the role.
It’s been nearly six years since that interview with Ansari, and in a new interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Fisher says he regrets the role. “It definitely haunts me. I still think it’s a really good movie, but I would never do that part again,” he admitted. He also added that the world “was a different place in 1986, obviously.”
This is a shift from his way of previously viewing the role. In a 2009 interview with The A.V. Club, he noted how much he enjoyed the role and prepping for it. “Back then, I loved it. I went to India and I studied Hindi. I got into yoga. And this is in 1985. I lived with Indian people. I really immersed myself. I used to be a total Method actor, so I was really deep in the deep end. And I had a great time. And the malapropisms, they worked. I thought they were great. So I really loved it,” said Stevens. He also mentioned that after making Ben Indian, Stevens was fired, and Bronson Pinchot (another white guy) replaced him. But eventually, Pinchot was fired and Stevens was re-hired. So, Badham had always intended for the role of an Indian man to be played by someone who is definitely not Indian. Yikes!