There's been plenty of outrage about casting Leo as the celebrated Persian poet Rumi. Here we go, another example of Hollywood's quiet racism, of "whitewashing."
But it makes sense if you imagine the conversation between the screenwriter and his agent.
"I'm doing a screenplay about Rumi."
"If he's gay, we can get James Franco..."
"No, he was a Persian mystic in the Middle Ages."
Crickets. Then: "Persia? That's Iran. You want to do a terrorist poet movie? You crazy?"
"He wasn't a terrorist and most people won't know Persia was the old name of Iran, they'll think it's a made-up country, like something from Disney. Most people can't even find their own state on the map."
"Good point, but he was a mystery, I mean a mystic? Nobody's gonna green light that script. Too weird. Poetry is tough enough."
"They will if Leo does it."
"Yes! People will see any crap he's in." Pause. "Rudi, I mean Rumi, was he white?"
"He was Persian."
"Well...you'll get flack for that. But PR is PR."