Here’s The Proof That ‘Gods of Egypt’ Didn’t Need White Actors
Almost a year ago — actor/comedian Chris Rock penned a scathingly honest piece for The Hollywood Reporter about how the industry blatantly refuses to adequately utilize black actors and actresses.
Rock pretty much exposed the ugliness of show business in its primal form.
Studio heads don’t give a shit about diversity or the lack of it. They care about dollars and cents and profitable returns.
According to their colonial mentality — this can’t be achieved with a multi-ethnic cast. This is only possible when you have white actors portraying characters that are essentially not white.
It is completely ludicrous and unfathomable that in 2015 — casting directors, directors, producers, and sponsoring studios feel justified in Caucasian actors to play the roles of Egyptian gods in a movie that is set in Africa.
Unfortunately this is common practice and a longstanding tradition since the dawn of moviemaking so there is no need to stray that far because sadly I don’t have to.
Just about a year ago famed director Ridley Scott was accused of “whitewashing” his overly ambitious offering Exodus. Scott wasn’t very gracious or apologetic in his response, which I commend him for because he honestly echoed the sentiments of the industry at large.
Scott acknowledged that in order to guarantee the level of financing needed for his epic disaster — he had no choice but to litter the roster with over paid white actors.
One of those actors happened to be Christian Bale — I’m no longer a fan of his due to the aggressive way he defended Scott’s actions by outright demeaning the public outcry. The best he could come up with was the fact that audiences don’t typically support films by “North African” and “Middle-Eastern” filmmakers which he think is a disservice to the actors who need the exposure and validation.
I found it interesting that Bale singled out “North Africa” for this argument as if the rest of the continent doesn’t apply. Also, in order for audiences to support those kinds of films we have to be able to access them and that is only possible if major studios loosen their grip and give those filmmakers the opportunity to receive the kind of backing that will allow that happen.
Until then — “whitewashing” will continue to be the norm as perfectly suitable actors will have to endure watching Caucasian men destroy the roles they would have embodied with dignity and grace.
Such is the case with the latest infamy — Gods of Egypt. The film stars Gerard Butler who we can readily agree isn’t necessarily known for his talent or star power but rather for having one night stands with reality TV stars.
The other sub par cast member, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is also not a box office draw in any capacity. The only thing he is known for is his redundant performance in the ridiculous comedy The Other Woman. How the hell does he go from that pathetic dude to playing an Egyptian god?
The rest of the cast are relative unknowns that none of you would recognize which makes this issue particularly infuriating.
Director Alex Proyas and Lionsgate the studio that financed what will surely be an expensive misfire at the box office issued statements in response to the backlash.
Of course they are sorry that they failed to take advantage of the latest “push for diversity” mandate and they humbly promise to do better next time.
Apology not accepted. How can we forgive such careless casting choices?
The worst of it being that none of the white actors who garnered those roles are even worthy enough to be cast in prime time TV shows.
Gods of Egypt would have been the perfect opportunity to showcase actors from that region in a broader scope. The film’s title undoubtedly signals that this isn’t a film that would attract the interest of any A-list star — black or white. So why not search for the next big thing in a continent overflowing with talent?
The opportunity was obviously wasted but there are plenty more to come.
So, I have done all the work and selected a handful of actors who would have given Gods of Egypt the authenticity it needed to be a box office draw and catapult the talents of color to well-deserved stardom.
No matter how hard Hollywood tries to escape reality — the truth is that the rest of the world has always been ready to embrace movies that depict historically-driven characters accurately without compensating for their ethnicity by delegating white actors in an effort to make white audiences feel more comfortable about seeing a film that really has nothing to do with them at all.
Here are my picks:
Amr Waked (42): Waked is an Egyptian film, television and stage actor who caught the attention of Hollywood in the 2005 film Syriana. I was privy to his acting chops when I saw him in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and again in Luc Besson’s Lucy. Of course due to his heritage — he is pretty much regulated to roles that call for a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean character, which isn’t a bad thing if he were to be cast in an epic Hollywood blockbuster. He has certainly paid his dues and earned that right.
Ahmed Ezz (44): Ezz is an Egyptian actor who has never had the opportunity to be cast in English-speaking films but has forged an impressive film and television career in his homeland, which gives him the level of popularity that would have been essential for his casting in a movie about Egyptian gods. He sure as heck looks the part!
Mido Hamada (44): Hamada is a German-Egyptian actor who has enjoyed enviable success in film, theatre and television — he even attended the Oxford School of Drama. To American audiences he will probably seem vaguely familiar which can be attributed to his high-profile role in the Fox hit series 24, where he played Samir Mehran — the Middle-Eastern intelligence agent gone rogue. He can currently be seen in Showtime’s Homeland where he plays one of the leaders of a terrorist cell that is planning to attack the United States. Not bad for an actor of Egyptian descent — but apparently not good enough to be considered for a role that fits his prototype. He is clearly skilled enough to make a convincing Egyptian god but what do we know?
Sammy Sheik (34): Sheik is an Egyptian actor who also had a recurring role in the Fox series 24 where he embodied the character of “Masheer”. He has had quite a varied and vibrant career that began with his first break that came courtesy of none other than Albert Brooks who utilized him to play an Al Jazeera businessman in the film Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. That opportunity opened doors and gave Sheik entry into the landscaped world of American television where he was cast in an array of shows like ABC’s Lost, Navy NCIS, The Unit and the Showtime hit series United States of Tara where he played the recurring role of Hany.