Casting of Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Cleopatra sparks anger

Many accuse Hollywood of whitewashing and wonder whether Cleopatra should be played by an actress of colour.

Wonder Woman
Gadot is known for her public support of the Israeli army and previously served as a soldier for two years [File: Jordan Strauss]

Social media users have reacted with dismay at the casting of Israeli actress Gal Gadot in an upcoming film about Cleopatra, the queen of the Nile.

The movie, to be released by Paramount Pictures, will be directed by Patty Jenkins, who was also behind the 2017 film Wonder Woman and the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984.

In both movies, Gadot plays the lead role.

Gadot is said to be behind the idea of the movie – billed as an epic biographical drama – written by Laeta Kalogridis.

Fans’ reactions were mostly sceptical, with many accusing Hollywood of whitewashing and wondering whether Cleopatra should be played by an actress of colour.

Cleopatra was a descendant of Ptolemy I, a Macedonian Greek who established himself as king of Egypt after the death of his companion Alexander the Great.

Lexi Alexander, a Palestinian-German director, said the role should go to a Black actress.

“I believe we should cast someone like the 3D image they created based on the the coin they found with Cleopatra on it … which means the part should go to a Black actress,” she said on Twitter.

Others pointed to Gadot’s history of having served in the Israeli army, and her outspoken support for the army’s military offensives on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Gadot was an active soldier in the military when Israel invaded and bombed southern Lebanon in 2006.

In 2014, during Israel’s 52-day war on the Gaza Strip in which more than 3,000 Palestinians were killed – the majority of them civilians – she expressed her support to the Israeli army.

“I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens,” Gadot wrote in a Facebook post.

“Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children … We shall overcome!!! Shabbat Shalom!”

Gadot is not the first white woman to play Cleopatra.

Claudette Colbert, Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor have all portrayed the historical figure in the past.

In 2017, Lebanon, Tunisia and Qatar banned Wonder Woman.

Lebanon’s decision was based on the grounds of a long-standing boycott of Israel, and Tunisia complied with the boycott after one of its parties slammed normalisation with Israel.

Source: Al Jazeera