[UPDATE 11/30/15 1:30PM EDT]: After outcry from both critics and movie-goers, Lionsgate and director Alex Proyas have officially apologized for the casting debacle that is “Gods of Egypt.” They addressed the controversy in a statement released to Forbes.
From director Alex Proyas:
“The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse. I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we made.”
“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 audiences. We have, can and will continue to do better.??”
ORIGINAL ARTICLE BELOW:
Well, it”s here. The trailer for “Gods of Egypt” dropped today and whoo boy, it is a hot mess. I can overlook a lot of the sillier aspects: “Stargate” did the magical animal-headed armor first so fine, the gods being huge compared to the mortals is whatever. I can even overlook the insane visuals of an Egyptian landscape that never existed since the pyramids were built in the desert sands on the West side of the Nile (and later in the Valley of the Kings) and not smack dab in the middle of town and they certainly didn”t have pedestrian superhighways…but hey, the “Rule of Cool” reigns supreme.
What I can”t get behind? How insultingly white the cast is. We have the gods Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Set (Gerard Butler) along with Ra (Geoffrey Rush). Thoth (Chadwick Boseman) and Hathor (the half-Cambodian Elodie Yung) are the only actors of color among the immortals. On the mortal side we have the hero Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who looks about as Egyptian as the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Like someone with short-term memory loss, Hollywood seems incapable of learning from their mistakes when it comes to whitewashing characters. Earlier this year Ridley Scott rightfully took flak for casting “Exodus: Gods and Kings” with nothing but white people. “Pan” received blowback for casting Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily. The heat is already on with the announcement that Scarlett Johansson will play the lead in “Ghost in the Shell.” So should we really be surprised that “Gods of Egypt” is rehashing the same problems?
Probably not. But that doesn”t mean we can”t be confounded by it. And the whitewashing extends beyond the main cast and into the background actors. Every shot from the trailer is a sea of white faces in what – based on the pyramids being the height of their glory and the verdant nature of the Nile is the Old Kingdom/Fifth Dynasty (2494 B.C. – 2345 B.C.) – should be a decidedly non-white period of Egyptian culture. And yet…
Casting directors, what are you doing? Stop this immediately. I implore you to please use this visual aid on why it”s crucial to stop giving roles meant for People of Color to white folks, even in background images.
Otherwise you end up with this as a representation of mortal ancient Egyptians.
“Gods of Egypt” arrives in theaters on February 26, 2016.