Director Alex Proyas has taken to Facebook and addressed the issue which we’ve posted below.
Personally, I’m still not sure about this movie; my first reaction was more “wow, that looks like cheesy nonsense” and yet I kinda like cheesy nonsense so with the right amount of beer I would maybe give it a shot.
Check out what Alex Proyas said below:
A FEW POINTS REGARDING CASTING GODS OF EGYPT
1 My movie is not intended to be “history”. It is inspired by myth, a fantasy film – a work of the imagination. Therefore under the rules of creative license and artistic freedom of expression, I cast the actors I considered right for the roles. It is also of course every one’s right to disagree with me. That’s art.
2. It is common for actors to play a character of a different nationality to their own. Sean Connery a Scot played a Russian. Omar Sharif an Egyptian also played a Russian. Meryl Streep played an Australian. Anthony Quinn a Mexican played almost anybody “ethnic”! And every Australian actor puts on an American accent now and then and pretends to be a yank. There was an outcry when Chinese actors played Japanese characters in a fairly recent film but generally this isn’t a focus of concern. Of course there is a justified concern if casting against race is an example of “white-washing” i.e. casting a white actor to represent a person of colour for the specific reason to appeal to a conceived predominantly white audience — though ironically I doubt there really is such an audience any more in most parts of the world.
3. There is much debate as to the the skin colour of Ancient Egyptians, though no one knows the facts with any certainty. Of course it is unlikely they were entirely caucasian in any era, though their art shows a mixture of skin colour during most dynasties. Is this recording of actuality, or symbolic or artistic representation therefore not meant literally? Perhaps modern Egypt’s mix of peoples is an indication of the ancients’ racial mix? Or perhaps not. I will not attempt to make any such argument either way – I just do not believe we know all the answers, and therefore erroneous to make generalised statements.
4. As a modern day Egyptian (of Greek ancestry which goes back to the time of Alexander the Great) I was born into a colour blind culture – and Egypt, like the countries immediately surrounding it, has been for at least the last two thousand years, a mixing pot of peoples – Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and African, a true cross-roads of civilisation, culturally and racially. Was this the case during the time of the pyramids? Who knows? Though it seems possible, and of course it depends on which era you are discussing. Ancient Egypt spanned thousands of years — and was ruled by many different peoples.
5. I cast the best actors for the roles. I stand by these decisions. The casting is an attempt to include ALL peoples – partly suggestive of the Egypt I know based on my own cultural heritage, but clearly and most importantly a work of the “imagination” — to exclude any one race in service of a hypothetical theory of historical accuracy, particularly in a film that is not attempting to be “history”, rather a fantasy film, would have been foolish and am certain would have received criticism of some other kind.
6. What are my critics saying exactly? That I should have cast Egyptians in every roll? Of course I wish there had been a great pool of english speaking Egyptian actors to draw upon for this movie, but the practicalities of production, the “names” which are required by studios to finance a movie of this scale, the fact the movie was entirely made in Australia with specific guidelines about how many “imported” actors we could include (due to financing Australian content “quota” requirements), all these aspects had a part to play in the casting of the movie.
7. Finally, I do believe this movie is not the best one to soap-box issues of diversity with. Yes, in the wider argument, I do believe we need more people of colour and a greater cultural diversity in movies — after all Hollywood has spent a century or more making 95% of it’s content based in American culture, it is time for a change. And, as one example, I do agree that often great performances by black actors in Hollywood movies are over-looked by the Academy. But in the instance of this movie, and based on my own cultural heritage, I attempted to show racial diversity, black, white, asian, as far as I was allowed, as far as I could, given the limitations I was given. It is obviously clear that for things to change, for casting in movies to become more diverse many forces must align. Not just the creative. To those who are offended by the decisions which were made I have already apologised. I respect their opinion, but I hope the context of the decisions is a little clearer based on my statements here.
Thanks for reading.
– Alex Proyas