As you can see from the above picture, the cast of Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods And Kings doesn’t exactly read “North African” (though I do enjoy that Ben Mendelsohn has apparently come to the premiere of his biblical movie dressed as the devil), and when Scott was asked about it, he rather tactlessly through up his hands and said “well I couldn’t very well cast Mohammad So-And-So now could I” (good save, bro). Rupert Murdoch helpfully followed up that gem with “all the Egyptians I know are white.” This week’s premiere gave some folks under 70 years old a chance to weigh in, and here’s how Christian Bale spun it:
“It would absolutely be a wonderful day of celebration if, within a few decades, we have another Moses and he’s a North African or Middle Eastern actor — what a wonderful thing,” he told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s New York premiere, in response to the film’s controversial casting. “Ridley [Scott] is absolutely honest and blunt to a fault, and I think that people, rather than pointing fingers, should ask themselves, are they being supportive of North African and Middle Eastern filmmakers and actors? … The change will come from independent filmmaking, but audiences have to be there. Because once that happens, financiers of bigger and bigger budget films will say, ‘We can actually do business here.'” [HollywoodReporter]
While it’s true that Ridley Scott was only saying what a lot of people in his position were thinking, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t at least be embarrassed for thinking it. If you try something new and fail, fine. Not only did he not try here, he said straight out that he never even considered it. Should you support North African and Middle Eastern filmmakers, and would that help? Absolutely. But asking the audience to do your work for you when you’re actually in a position to create change is bullshit. “Don’t blame the A-list director who’s worked in Hollywood for the last 40 years, blame the lowest-common denominator!”
Did Ridley Scott need a big star like Christian Bale to get financing? Almost certainly. But don’t tell me he couldn’t have found a darker actor than Joel Edgerton to stick next to him. It’s not like your proverbial aunt from Grand Rapids even knows who Joel Edgerton is anyway. You’re in Hollywood. Don’t tell me you couldn’t find anyone who looked like a Hebrew.