*The upcoming Hollywood epic “Gods of Egypt” is the latest in a long line of films to be criticized for its “whitewashed” casting — but this time around, the director and the studio are owning up to, and APOLOGIZING, in the wake of the uproar.
The film, which bows February 26, 2016, casts white actors Gerald Butler (300), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), and Brendon Thwaites (The Giver) as Egyptians. Backlash was swift and brutal after the trailer for the film was released, revealing that the overwhelming majority of the cast was white.
Casting white folks in roles that demand an actor of color is a practice that’s literally decades old. I remember watching the 1956 epic “The Ten Commandments” on TV every year (no, I was NOT there in 1956!) and thinking that the beautiful but nonetheless alabaster Anne Baxter just wasn’t cutting it as Neferteri. I also wondered how in the world the prince of Egypt could have looked like the handsome but woefully pale Yul Brenner?
In Hollywood, it’s always been more than ok to cast African Americans as Mammy at Tara, but when it’s been time to cast the lead in “Cleopatra”, the drifting-snow-like Elizabeth Taylor was every producer’s first choice.
So this is old news, in a way. But what’s different this time around is the studio’s swift and seemingly heartfelt mea culpa.
“The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables,” the film’s director Alex Proyas said, adding “I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we made.”
The studio behind the film, Lionsgate, released its now official statement regarding the film’s casting:
“We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that casting decisions reflect the diversity and culture of the time periods portrayed. In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity, for which we sincerely apologize. Lionsgate is deeply committed to making films that reflect the diversity of our audience.”
Now, one might argue that the director and studio are apologizing because they don’t want “Gods of Egypt” to tank at the box office…and I might be one of those ones. But generally, I’m one that appreciates and accept an apology, so I’ll accept this one…while paying close attention to upcoming Lionsgate films.
Director Ava DuVernay (Selma) agrees that the expression of regret from this film’s director and studio are rare.
“This kind of apology never happens — for something that happens all the time,” she tweeted. “An unusual occurrence worth noting.”
Your thoughts? Are you planning to see Gods of Egypt? Does the whitewashed casting bother you, or do you just want to see Gerald Butler in a robe and sandals…one more time, for old times’ sake, and to hell with historical accuracy?