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Casting Israeli Actress to Play Cleopatra Faces Backlash

Casting Israeli Actress to Play Cleopatra Faces Backlash

Saturday, 17 October, 2020 - 05:45
Actress Gal Gadot poses at the world premiere of "Fast Five" at the Cinepolis Lagoon theater in Rio de Janeiro April 15, 2011. Reuters file photo

The casting of Israeli actress Gal Gadot to play Cleopatra in a new movie has prompted social media criticism.

Hollywood has been accused of a new "whitewashing" row, a historical debate over the ancient Queen of Egypt's ancestry.

Gadot, best known for Wonder Woman, is confirmed to star the role made famous by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 classic "Cleopatra" produced by Paramount Studios.

The biopic will retell the "story for the first time through women's eyes, both behind and in front of the camera," Gadot tweeted.

Wonder Woman's director Patty Jenkins is on board, as is "Shutter Island" writer Laeta Kalogridis.

But the announcement immediately prompted social media criticism of the white, Israel-born star's casting as an African queen. "Hollywood has always cast white American actresses as the Queen of the Nile. For once, can't they find an African actress?" tweeted author James Hall.

The furor taps into wider criticism of Hollywood's history of casting white actors in non-white roles on the apparent assumption of higher box office appeal, a practice commonly referred to as "whitewashing."

However, other social media users quickly noted that Cleopatra herself, a 1st-century B.C. ruler descended from Alexander the Great's General Ptolemy, was of Greek heritage.

"Incredibly excited to get the chance to tell the story of Cleopatra, my favorite Ptolemaic Pharoah and arguably the most famous Macedonian Greek woman in history," tweeted Kalogridis.

Gadot, who has not commented on the row, retweeted the comment. Gadot's Wonder Woman 1984 is due in theaters this December; although some analysts predict its release date could be shifted to next year because of the pandemic.

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