The ‘Gods of Egypt’ director Alex Proyas apologized for casting mostly white actors in his upcoming film based on Egyptian mythology. The filmmaker and studio Lionsgate issued separate statements on acknowledging the controversy sparked by the release of the film’s first trailer some weeks ago, featuring a cast led by Scottish actor Gerard Butler and Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Australian director Proyas, who was born in Egypt, said it is clear that their casting choices should have been more diverse. Lionsgate also said they are deeply committed to making films that reflect the diversity of their audiences and pledged to do better. Gods of Egypt also stars actor Chadwick Boseman, an African American, and actress Elodie Yung, who is French-Cambodian.
“We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that casting decisions reflect the diversity and culture of the time periods portrayed,” read Lionsgate’s statement, first reported by Forbes. “In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity.”
This self-aware response, issued well in advance of the film’s Feb. 26 release, comes on the heels of recent whitewashing controversies surrounding films like ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’, and ‘Aloha’.
Selma director Ava DuVernay took note of the anomaly on Twitter. “This kind of apology never happens — for something that happens all the time,” wrote DuVernay. “An unusual occurrence worth noting.”
Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and King, which featured Christian Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton as Ramses, was criticized last year for its predominantly white cast. Director Ridley Scott brushed off condemnations at the time, blaming the model of financing Hollywood movies for his choices. He stated that he would not be able to get the film financed by casting “Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such.”
Hollywood has a long tradition of casting white actors as other ethnicities, but lately the practice is not going unchallenged and is often put under scrutiny as soon as castings are announced, as was the case with Joe Wright’s Pan, where Rooney Mara played Tiger Lily. An outright apology prior to a film’s release in the case of Gods of Egypt is perhaps a sign that currents are changing.