Gods of Egypt director Alex Proyas has officially apologized for the lack of diversity in the casting of the film. In a statement published in Forbes, Proyas cited the difficulties of the casting process as one of the explanations for the predominantly white cast.
“The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse,” Proyas said. “I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we made.”
The Gods of Egypt movie stars Gerard Butler, best known for playing Leonidas in “300,” and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones. The film’s plot revolves around a war between various Egyptian gods. Gerard Butler plays Set in Gods of Egypt, while Nikolaj Coster Waldau plays Horus. The film also stars Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, and Courtney Eaton, along with African-American actor Chadwick Boseman and French-Cambodian actress Elodie Yung.
— Gods of Egypt (@GodsofEgypt) November 13, 2015
The studio behind the film, Lionsgate, also added its own apology.
“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,” the company said in a written statement. “Lionsgate is deeply committed to making films that reflect the diversity of our audiences. We have, can and will continue to do better.”
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that a film depicting ancient Egypt has come under fire for having a predominantly white cast.
Last year, Exodus: Gods and Kings, directed by Ridley Scott, was blasted for casting white actors as ancient Egyptian kings and queens. The film was a retelling of the biblical events that led the the freeing of the Jews after years of enslavements by the Egyptians. The backlash against the casting seemed to make a dent in the ticket sales for the Exodus movie. According to the BBC, the film cost a reported $140m to make and took $24.5m on its debut weekend.
These sales are a bit weak when you compare them to other modern day blockbuster biblical movies. Darren Aronofsky’s Noah accumulated $43.7m on its opening weekend, and 2004’s The Passion of the Christ took in $83.3m during its first weekend in theatres.
Unlike Proyas, Exodus director Ridley Scott did not apologize for choosing to hire mostly white lead actors. He defended the decision, claiming that a movie of that scope would not be funded if it didn’t have some widely recognized names attached to it.
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” he said in an interview with Variety. ” I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
Exodus: Gods and Kings starred Christian Bale as Moses, and Australian actor Joel Edgerton as Egyptian King Ramses.
There’s a long history of white actors being used to play ancient Egyptians in films, most notably in The Ten Commandments (1956) and Cleopatra (1963). However, we live in a different time now and, based on the social media reactions to Gods of Egypt, audiences are coming to the theaters expecting something different.
“Gods of Egypt” looks like such a terrible movie on so many different levels.
— Ryan Dalton (@capetownbrown) November 29, 2015
Gods of Egypt producers: “our bad the movie ended up being all white folks” *continue to produce movie with all white folks* — Vann R. Newkirk II (@fivefifths) November 28, 2015
Just saw trailer for #GodsOfEgypt. Wonder why Hollywood never take creative liberties with the ethnicity of slaves like they do kings?
— Derek Minor #EMPIRE (@thederekminor) November 22, 2015
Even other filmakers are speaking out. Selma director Ava du Vernay credited Proyas for apologizing, but still made the point that this type of whitewashing happens frequently in Hollywood.
Gods of Egypt is slated for a February, 2016, release. Will you be watching?
[Image via EONE]