Ridley Scott’s biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and Sigourney Weaver, has been accused of “whitewashing”: deliberately casting white actors in non-white roles and only offering black actors small parts as servants and slaves. The swords and sandals epic retells the tale of Moses and Ramses, with Bale as the leader of the Israelites and Edgerton as the Egyptian Pharaoh. There has been a call on Twitter for a boycott of the film with the hashtag #BoycottExodusMovie. A sample of some tweets: “Aren’t there enough black actors? If it’s to find black actors to act slave roles they’ll find them but never as pharoahs #BoycottExodusMovie”. “#BoycottExodusMovie it’s 2014 and Hollywood are still portraying ancient Egyptian royalty as white people? FOH.”(F… Outta Here – had to look that up). “Whitewashed cast with black people cast as slaves in ANCIENT EGYPT? You’re joking. #BoycottExodusMovie.”
Joel Edgerton says he ’empathizes’ with the campaign. Commenting on the casting, the actor said it was “not my job to make those decisions,” adding: “I got asked to do a job and it would have been very hard to say no to that job.” However, he continued: “I do say that I am sensitive to it and I do, I do understand and empathize with that position.” Of course, this is not the first time Hollywood has cast white actors in ethnic parts. Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner played Moses and Ramses, respectively, in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. Elizabeth Taylor portrayed Egyptian queen Cleoptara, and recently audiences saw Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince of Persia. Scott’s film will be released at Christmas. We shall see if it’s boycotted or not.