The apologies from Alex Proyas and Lionsgate following a storm of complaints about the casting of Gods of Egypt have not placated many of those who object to the whitewashing of the gods and Egyptian characters.
The controversy erupted after the release of the first trailer for the fantasy adventure shot in Sydney, which stars Gerard Butler, Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Rufus Sewell, Elodie Young, Courtney Eaton, Abbey Lee and Chadwick Boseman.
Typifying the indignation, Bette Midler Tweeted: “Movie, #GodsOfEgypt in which everyone is white? Egyptians, in history and today, have NEVER been white. BRING BACK GEOGRAPHY!! It's Africa!”
Proyas responded, “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 stated, “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.”
Not good enough, according to many who commented on social media, judging by this kind of reaction: “You can't do a PR apology almost 3 years after casting for whitewashing #GodsOfEgypt and expect [people] to think it's sincere.”
And this: “Filmmakers & actors have to put their foot down when films like #GodsOfEgypt come their way. Learn your history. Be authentic & responsible.”
US director /screenwriter Ava DuVernay, whose Selma was the first film directed by a black woman to be nominated for best picture at the Oscars, welcomed the apology. But she Tweeted, “GODS OF EGYPT makes me value Abrams' STAR WARS choices more. Makes me cheer more for Coogler's CREED. We all deserve icons in our own image.”
EntertainmentOne will launch the $US140 million film on February 25, concurrent with the US. Lionsgate’s exposure is just $US10 million thanks to the studio’s output deals and Australian incentives, according to CEO Jon Feltheimer.
The NSW government helped secure the production through its investment attraction scheme, claiming it would generate 400 jobs in the local industry and contribute around $75 million in direct production expenditure to the state’s economy.
Last year Exodus: Gods and Kings was widely criticised for having a white cast led by Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver. Director Ridley Scott defended his decision, declaring, “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. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
Forbes’ Scott Mendelson commented, “As a fan of Proyas (The Crew, Dark City, I, Robot, Knowing) and a supporter of original big-budget fantasy spectaculars, I have no desire to see Gods of Egypt fail at the box office next year. Yet if it does turn out to be an international hit, it will be used as evidence that you can get away with this kind of thing and that you shouldn’t take the 'risk' of crafting a movie such as this one with ethnically-accurate casts.”
Here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJBnK2wNQSo