Hundreds of people are questioning the controversial cast of Exodus: God and Kings calling the movie racist.
Even though “Exodus: Gods and Kings” doesn’t hit theaters until December, it is already labeled one of the year’s most controversial films. This is because the director Ridley Scott has cast white actors to play Egyptians in the Biblical film, while non-white actors are only given roles as slaves, servants and thieves. For example, Christian Bale plays Moses, Sigourney Weaver plays Tuya and Aaron Paul plays Joshua in the upcoming feature film.
“Ridley Scott is one of those guys who’s apparently hellbent on historical accuracy but doesn’t care enough to cast a person of color as Moses or a goddamn African queen while simultaneously filling out the rest of the movie with Black servants and thieves,” David Dennis Jr. wrote in a widely circulated post on Medium titled “You Probably Shouldn’t Go See Ridley Scott’s Pretty Racist ‘Exodus’ Movie.” “But to make the main characters white and everyone else African is cinematic colonialism. It’s creating a piece of historical ‘art’ that carries on oppressive imagery that’s helped shackle entire countries and corners of the world.”
After the first trailer premiered and dozens of people vowed to boycott the movie. Hundreds of people took to Twitter posting #BoycottExodusMovie Joel Edgerton, who plays Ramses in the movie, told The Guardian that he understood the complaints and concerns.
“[It was] not my job to make those decisions,” he said of the casting process. “I got asked to do a job and it would have been very hard to say no to that job. [But] I do say that I am sensitive to it and I do understand and empathize with that position.”
In an interview with with Yahoo!, Scott has addressed the casting of “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” though he was not asked directly about allegedly whitewashing the story. Here’s his answer:
I guess being a director, in some ways, is like being the captain of a sports team, like a soccer team, and you have to make sure that you have every position covered really well because that will help you to win the game. So I always look on making a film as a partnership and that’s what casting is all about, whether it’s the star or the guy with one line. And by doing that you enable them to feel confident to try things out and feel free to suggest things. And over the years I’ve got the best results from actors who really are my partners in the process and it makes it all the more enjoyable. In this instance I’d met Christian four or five years ago when we had a cup of tea together and a rich tea biscuit in LA and he said, ‘What are we going to do together?’ And I said “well, I’ll come up with something.’ And it wasn’t until five years later when I was thinking about the idea of Exodus and Moses being this kind of larger than life character who, at the same time, has to be played definitively as a very real person, that I thought of Christian and I knew he was the right actor for the role. It’s not a fantasy. Ramses certainly wasn’t a fantasy and somewhere Moses is very much written down and indicated and believed. So it’s a real thing.
Ridley Scott was then asked about the film’s “international cast”:
Egypt was –- as it is now -– a confluence of cultures, as a result of being a crossroads geographically between Africa, the Middle East and Europe. We cast major actors from different ethnicities to reflect this diversity of culture, from Iranians to Spaniards to Arabs. There are many different theories about the ethnicity of the Egyptian people, and we had a lot of discussions about how to best represent the culture.
Scott does not directly confront the issue. But, Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter sparking a fire. Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp and 21st Century Fox, tweeted early yesterday:
Moses film attacked on Twitter for all white cast. Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are.
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) November 29, 2014
People responded to Murdoch’s comments by calling the CEO of the world’s media “a rather ill-informed moron”. Another tweeter, @scifisunsets, responded with “Jesus Rupe, all that money and you know hee-haw about people.” Raymond Delauney tweeted: “All… Egyptian dictators you’ve supported are no doubt ‘white’.” Fifteen minutes after his first comment, Rupert Murdoch retaliated:
Everybody-attacks last tweet. Of course Egyptians are Middle Eastern, but far from black. They treated blacks as slaves. — Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) November 29, 2014
Okay, there are many shades of color. Nothing racist about that, so calm down!
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) November 29, 2014
Some secondary characters in the movie are being played by ethnic minority actors, including Golshifteh Farahani and Indira Varma.
Ridley Scott tried and failed to defend Exodus from critics by arguing that it would have been impossible to finance the movie had the lead actor been “Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such”.
Exodus: Gods and Kings centers around (Christian Bale) Moses as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.
The Hollywood Diversity Report published earlier this year revealed only 11 percent of all films cast an ethnic minority actor in a lead roles, while ethnic minority actors made up just 10 percent of the cast in a majority of movies.