Rozina Sabur and Nick Allen, Telegraph, November 30, 2015
Hollywood has apologised following a race row over an upcoming blockbuster featuring white actors as ancient Egyptian deities.
Gods of Egypt will star Scottish actor Gerard Butler, Australian Geoffrey Rush, and Danish thespian Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as the gods Set, Ra and Horus.
The film, which is released in February, centres on a mortal character called Bek played by Brenton Thwaites, a white Australian actor previously known for appearing in the soap opera Home and Away.
Makers of the $140 million fantasy, which will be one of the most expensive Hollywood productions of 2016, were accused of “whitewashing” after a trailer was released.
Vocal critics included the actress Bette Midler who said: “A movie Gods of Egypt in which everyone is white? Egyptians, in history and today, have never been white. Bring back geography. It’s Africa.”
A spokesman for Lionsgate, the Hollywood studio behind the film, said: “In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity, for which we sincerely apologise.
“We are deeply committed to making films that reflect the diversity of our audiences. We have, can and will continue to do better.”
The director Alex Proyas, an Australian who was born in Egypt, said: “It is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse.”
Ava DuVernay, black director of the Oscar-nominated film Selma, welcomed the apology.
She said: “This kind of apology never happens – for something that happens all the time. It’s an unusual occurrence worth noting.”
Hollywood studios increasingly rely on a small number of big budget films each year to bring in most of their profits and are reluctant to risk casting little known ethnic minority actors in them.
The latest controversy followed a series of similar race rows over recent films including director Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings.
It was released last year and starred Christian Bale, the British actor, as Moses and Sigourney Weaver as the wife of a pharaoh.
At the time Scott said he would not have got funding for the film if “my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such”.
Last month the actress Rooney Mara faced a backlash after being cast as a Native American princess in Pan.
She said: “I totally sympathise with why people were upset and feel really bad about it.”
Earlier this year Hollywood director Cameron Crowe apologised for casting Emma Stone as an Asian-American character in Aloha, a romantic comedy set in Hawaii.