Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Reel Facts & Opinions: Controversy over GODS AND KINGS

FACT: There has been some controversy over the casting decisions made in Sir Ridley Scott’s upcoming Biblical epic EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS, which is due for release this December. The uproar is centered upon the casting of Caucasian actors to play key roles of the Egyptian royal family. The film, which is an interpretation of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt as led by Moses in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, stars Christian Bale (THE DARK KNIGHT) as Moses, and Joel Edgerton (WARRIOR) as Ramses.
OPINION: These casting decisions are not unlike the controversy over the casting of LES MISERABLES in 2012. In that situation, fans of the stage production were upset that Hollywood stars were in the lead roles instead of the talented singers and actors who were involved in the Broadway production. The bottom line in the LES MIS situation is that you will never get general audiences into the theatre to see a movie with actors they never heard of. Similar to the comic-book films, you have to get everyone through the gate. Now back to EXODUS, are there talented Egyptian actors out there who could have carried these roles? Sure, but how many of them are household names? Practically none. Movies care about art, but this is a business and they do care about dollars too…and famous faces and names sell tickets.

This is certainly not the first time this has happened. Cecil B. DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956), which deals with the same characters as EXODUS, had the same approach; Charlton Heston was born in Illinois and played Moses, while Yul Brenner was born in Russia and played the Egyptian king Ramses. Besides all this, the casting of native Egyptians would require the film to be subtitled, which is often a turnoff for audiences. Not to mention that religious art has depicted their characters as Caucasians for centuries.
What say you?

EXODUS is directed by Sir Ridley Scott (GLADIATOR, ALIEN), and stars Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul, John Turturro, Ben Kingsley, and Sigourney Weaver. It is due for release on December 12th.


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