It was announced earlier this year that filmmaker Patty Jenkins will be teaming up once again with long-time collaborator Gal Gadot on a period biographical drama centering on the life of Queen Cleopatra. Gadot, who is Israeli by birth, was accused of taking the role of Cleopatra away from Arab or African actresses who would be better able to portray the monarch, who was believed to be of middle-eastern descent. Speaking to BBC Arabic, as reported by The Independent, Gadot defended her decision to essay the role.
"First of all, if you want to be true to the facts then Cleopatra was Macedonian. We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn't there, and I was very passionate about Cleopatra. I have friends from across the globe, whether they're Muslims or Christian or Catholic or atheist or Buddhist, or Jewish of course. People are people, and with me I want to celebrate the legacy of Cleopatra and honor this amazing historic icon that I admire so much. You know, anybody can make this movie and anybody can go ahead and do it. I'm very passionate that I'm going to do my own too."
Controversy over Hollywood's color-blind fascination with Cleopatra is not a new thing. Elizabeth Taylor starred as the historic figure in the 1963 Joseph Mankiewicz-directed Cleopatra, and the film has since come to be seen as racially insensitive. More recent projects based on the Egyptian monarch had names like Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga circling the part, but those projects ultimately fell through.
Gadot's defense of her casting as Cleopatra is unlikely to go down well with her critics. The actress seems to be implying that there were no actresses available that belonged to Cleopatra's ethnic lineage, which led to Gadot taking on the role herself. This is the same excuse that Hollywood has presented in the past when casting Christian Bale as Moses in 2014's Exodus: Gods and Kings, or Scarlet Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in 2017's Ghost in the Shell.
This is not the first time that Gal Gadot has found herself on the wrong side of a cultural conversation. Earlier this year, in the midst of the global lockdown when economies were crashing the world over and the threat of recession loomed large, Gadot decided to collaborate with her celebrity friends on a rendition of the song "Imagine" by John Lennon, as a gesture of solidarity with the people facing hardships in isolation at home.
Unfortunately, the performance was seen as being tone-deaf, and Gadot and her millionaire friends were accused of being out of touch with the grim reality being faced by poverty-stricken people who were struggling to get through the lockdown. The actress acknowledged the backlash against her "Imagine" video but reiterated that her intentions had been pure.
"Sometimes, you know, you try and do a good deed and it's just not the right good deed. I had nothing but good intentions and it came from the best place, and I just wanted to send light and love to the world."
It will be interesting to see if Gadot will continue with her decision of essaying the role of Cleopatra or step aside and give a chance to an actress from the appropriate ethnic background. Considering Hollywood's track record, maybe don't hold your breath for the latter. This news comes from the Independent.