Asian Role: Mr. Yunioshi
Non-Asian Performer: Mickey Rooney
Release Date: 1961
This was an appalling, racist indignity in an otherwise lovely film—even by the standards of 1961. Mickey Rooney was a holdover from the vaudevillian days—when this sort of broad stereotyping was more acceptable—and when he brought his Japanese character to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, he nearly ruined the film. The character wasn’t limited to a single scene at the beginning either—he kept popping up intermittently, and every time he did, he took the audience right out of the movie.
At the time the film was released, the New York Times wrote, “Mickey Rooney's bucktoothed, myopic Japanese is broadly exotic.” As the years have worn on, nearly everyone, from the producers to the director, have apologized for it. The only person who seems to have a difficult time apologizing is Mickey Rooney. He does concede, however, that if he knew he would cause so much pain, he would have never taken the role.