‘Gods of Egypt’ Director, Studio Apologize for Mostly White Cast: ‘We Failed …

28 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Alex Proyas and Lionsgate Apologizes for ‘Gods of Egypt’ Whitewashing.

Directed by Alex Proyas and set in ancient Egypt, the tale of deities and mortals fighting over the fate of the world features several white actors in prominent roles, including Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Brenton Thwaites.

Gods of Egypt is a big budget project that sort of came out of left field, but the negative feelings inspired by its trailer and promotional materials are quite familiar. Set in Egypt, the new film from director Alex Proyas features a mostly white cast, recalling Ridley Scott’s unfortunate casting choices for Exodus: Gods and Kings. Proyas said in a statement Friday, “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.” Lionsgate, the studio behind Gods of Egypt, added, “We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that casting decisions reflect the diversity and culture of the time periods portrayed. Proyas’ film is not as self-serious, as evidenced by the totally insane and goofy trailer for the big budget fantasy-action flick, but that’s not the only difference between the two films.

Exodus, which had a reported budget of $140 million, ended up underperforming at the box office, grossing only $65 million in North America and another $203.2 million overseas. The apologies don’t fix what’s already been done, but it’s certainly a step up from Ridley Scott’s response when confronted by the lack of diversity in Exodus, which featured actors like Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and Ben Kingsley. Scott defended his casting choices by pointing to the difficulties directors face in getting funding for ambitious, big-budget projects if they try to cast diverse actors: 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. Magic, monsters, gods and madness reign throughout the palaces and pyramids of the Nile River Valley in this action-adventure inspired by the classic mythology of Egypt. Set (Gerard Butler), the merciless god of darkness, has usurped Egypt’s throne, plunging the once peaceful and prosperous empire into chaos and conflict.

There have been several unfortunate instances of white actors cast in ethnic roles over the decades, from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Cleopatra, to Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit 2 — an example smartly addressed in Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series Master of None. With only a handful of heroic rebels opposing Set’s savage rule, Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a bold and defiant mortal, enlists the aid of powerful god Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in an unlikely alliance against the evil overlord. More recent examples: Ben Affleck played a hispanic character in Argo, Angelina Jolie darkened her skin to play journalist Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart, Emma Stone played an Asian woman in Aloha and Johnny Depp played the Native American Tonto in The Lone Ranger. As their breathtaking battle against Set and his henchmen take them into the afterlife and across the heavens, both god and mortal must pass tests of courage and sacrifice if they hope to prevail in the spectacular final confrontation.

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