-- The film “Exodus: Gods and Kings” isn’t due out for another two weeks, but the movie's focus on the life of Moses is already being criticized because the actors in its major roles are whites playing Egyptians.
The movie stars Christian Bale as Moses, Aaron Paul as Joshua, Sigourney Weaver as Tuya and Joel Edgerton as Rhamses. On Twitter, the hashtag #boycottexodusmovie is trending, with posters airing their displeasure with the casting.
One poster wrote: “I actually wanted to see #BoycottExodusMovie but I won't waste my money on something some historically inaccurate.”
Another added: “Blacks only cast as slaves, thieves...Not the Kings and Queens? I hope @ExodusMovie bombs at the box office..”
There are several other actors of color in the film’s cast, including Ben Kingsley, Dar Salim and Indira Varma.
Director Ridley Scott addressed the issue in an interview with Variety, telling the publication the casting was a business decision.
“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,” Scott says. “I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
In this respect, Scott isn’t alone. Much of Hollywood’s portrayals of notable Biblical figures have been by white actors – Liz Taylor played Cleopatra, Charlton Heston played Moses and Russell Crowe played Noah. There was one notable exception when Egyptian actor Omar Sharif played Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, in the 2006 film, “The Ten Commandments.”
Ramin Setoodeh, an editor with Variety, says Hollywood has a big diversity problem.
"They don’t often let actors of color or diverse actors play lead roles in films and I think we’re seeing this spill over to these Biblical stories," he said.
Scott’s film is also in hot water with religious groups, who are angry over Bale’s take on Moses.
In an interview with ABC’s “Nightline,” Bale said of Moses: “[He was] absolutely seen as a freedom fighter for the Hebrews, but a terrorist in terms of the Egyptian empire,” adding that if Moses were alive today, “Drones would be sent out after him, right?”
And at news conference in September, Bale said of Moses: “I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life. He's a very troubled and tumultuous man who fought greatly against God, against his calling."
Setoodeh of Variety said religious groups want to make sure the Bible is portrayed in a way that is fair and not offensive.
“Exodus: Gods and Kings” opens nationwide Dec. 12.