Israel-born actress Gal Gadot revealed on 11 October that she would be trying on the role of Cleopatra in a retelling of the epic made famous by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 classic, sparking an outcry over her casting as the legendary Egyptian Queen.
I love embarking on new journeys,I love the excitement of new projects, the thrill of bringing new stories to life.Cleopatra is a story I wanted to tell for a very long time.Can’t be more grateful about this A team!! @PattyJenks @ParamountPics #AtlasEntertainment #LaetaKalogridis https://t.co/qLH7vfCaUo— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) October 11, 2020
Gadot went on Twitter to share her excitement over joining forces again with “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins for the “thrilling” new project, to be produced by Paramount Pictures and written by Laeta Kalogridis.
However, the announcement triggered a heated debate on social media, as some criticized the casting of an Israeli actress as the Queen of Egypt, suggesting an Arab or Black woman might have better suited the role. The last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt, Cleopatra was born in Egypt and traced her family origins to Macedonian Greece and Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great's generals. However, accuracy was no impediment to ire among the usual suspects on Twitter.
Historically, Cleopatra would've been black. I feel like if you have respect for this role you should step down— Spinellio (@CartoonsExist) October 11, 2020
Which Hollywood dumbass thought it would be a good idea to cast an Israeli actress as Cleopatra (a very bland looking one) instead of a stunning Arab actress like Nadine Njeim?
And shame on you, Gal Gadot. Your country steals Arab land & you’re stealing their movie roles... smh. https://t.co/GY5tYEcl4K pic.twitter.com/JcrnM1RUQq— sameera khan (@SameeraKhan) October 11, 2020
White libs flipped TF out when white actors played MYTHICAL Egyptian gods in “Gods of Egypt,” but all is well when a WHITE Israeli actress of European descent is cast as Cleopatra. https://t.co/8eVtxiPL4V— sameera khan (@SameeraKhan) October 11, 2020
Gal Gadot is a garbage actor it’s beyond me how y’all give her so much hype and Hollywood STILL casts her in movies— Flint 🎃🦇🔪 (@TwixAreTopTier) October 11, 2020
Cleopatra will be the subject of another Hollywood epic. Playing #Cleopatra will be Israel's Gal Gadot. Hollywood has always cast white American actresses as the Queen of the Nile. For once, can't they find an African actress? pic.twitter.com/R1kNkhHsM4— James Hall (@hallaboutafrica) October 11, 2020
what surprises me about cleopatra casting is that i thought jenkins must know gadot is a bad actress but is stuck with her cause you cant recast wonder woman. but turns out she doesn’t know gadot is a bad actress, which makes her a even worse director.— dilara (@IngmarBoobman) October 11, 2020
idk which hollywood elite Gal Gadot has blackmail on but idk why tf she keeps getting casted for things...she can’t act.— ❂ (@hateyouniggas) October 11, 2020
Wading into the discussion, the screenplay author Laeta Kalogridis pointed out that Cleopatra was neither Arab nor Black, but rather a Macedonian Greek.
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.— Laeta Kalogridis (@LKalogridis) October 11, 2020
Never thought I’d have the opportunity to tell a story like this, with women who have inspired me beyond words.
Other netizens echoed this stance.
Which ‘dumbass’ doesn’t know Cleopatra was Greek? pic.twitter.com/VJ5n9PoNe9— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) October 11, 2020
Cleopatra was part Greek and part Berber. That’s what we know for sure. Scholars have been debating this topic for centuries now.— sameera khan (@SameeraKhan) October 11, 2020
What will trigger people more? The fact that I am excited to see Gal Gadot as Cleopatra? Or that I remind them that Cleopatra was actually Greek, so casting Gal Gadot isn’t cultural appropriation of us brown people? https://t.co/QyroDMs76w— Kamran Pasha (@kamranpasha) October 11, 2020
While modern scholars must rely on ancient artwork to determine the lineage of the pharoahs who built Egypt's famous pyramids, the Alexandrian conquest of the nation in 332-331 BCE firmly established the Hellenic Greeks and Macedonians as the nation's leaders until its conquest by the Romans. Following the fall of Rome, Egypt remained part of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire until the Arab conquest of the country in the 7th century, which yielded the modern nation's demographics, faith, and language.
On a more conciliatory note, others on social media pointed out that Gadot, ranked third this month on the Forbes list of the highest-paid actresses in the world for 2020, was a major box office draw.
I get so tired of people complaining about actors playing different nationalities like it’s not the same as race. Gal is perfect for the part and I’m sure Jenkins will nail it— Paul Klein 👾 @ LFF (@paulkleinyo) October 11, 2020
Gal Gadot as Cleopatra, why yes I agree pic.twitter.com/YqGj8TFolX— 𝑲𝒆𝒊𝒍𝒆𝒚 𝑲𝒂𝒊𝒔𝒆𝒓 (@keileykaiser) October 11, 2020
I'm going to say this once and I'm not going to say it again, Cleopatra was Greek.— The Moonlight Warrior 🌙 (@BlackMajikMan90) October 11, 2020
Yes, she was in Egyptian ruler but she was Greek with Persian and Syrian ancestry. The people who are reacting negatively that to this are uneducated and uninformed.
Gal Gadot deserves this role. pic.twitter.com/7h1oYu9ClX
Because she's an actress. Why would she offend others by taking the role? why getting a job would offend others that weren't offered that? You see latinos (I'm latino by the way) and black people taking roles from people who were white on TV & comics forever and none complains.— Maar13 (@undertaker013) October 12, 2020
While there has not been any official response from Gal Gadot to the controversy surrounding her casting as Cleopatra, the actress tweeted the upcoming film would be the first time the epic tale was told through “women’s eyes, both behind and in front of the camera.”
As you might have heard I teamed up with @PattyJenks and @LKalogridis to bring the story of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, to the big screen in a way she’s never been seen before. To tell her story for the first time through women's eyes, both behind and in front of the camera. pic.twitter.com/k5eyTIfzjB— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) October 12, 2020