Following months of backlash, Ridley Scott has finally addressed the casting controversies surrounding "Exodus." In an interview with Variety, Scott said the reason he cast white actors to play Egyptians in his Biblical film was because of monetary considerations.
"I can't mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such," Scott told Variety. "I'm just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn't even come up."
Scott's film cost near $200 million before European tax credits pushed the eventual reported budget down to $140 million. Christian Bale plays Moses in the film, with white actors such as Joel Edgerton (as Ramses), Sigourney Weaver (as Tuya), John Turturro (as Seti I) and Aaron Paul (as Joshua) filling out other major roles. Non-white actors with significant parts in "Exodus: Gods and Kings" include Ben Kingsley, María Valverde and Hiam Abbass. (Black actors were seemingly cast as slaves and servants.)
"Ridley Scott is one of those guys who’s apparently hellbent on historical accuracy but doesn’t care enough to cast a person of color as Moses or a goddamn African queen while simultaneously filling out the rest of the movie with Black servants and thieves," David Dennis Jr. wrote in a post on Medium. "But to make the main characters white and everyone else African is cinematic colonialism. It’s creating a piece of historical 'art' that carries on oppressive imagery that’s helped shackle entire countries and corners of the world."
Scott had previously commented on his cast, but not the controversy, in an interview with Yahoo! Australia:
Egypt was –- as it is now -– a confluence of cultures, as a result of being a crossroads geographically between Africa, the Middle East and Europe. We cast major actors from different ethnicities to reflect this diversity of culture, from Iranians to Spaniards to Arabs. There are many different theories about the ethnicity of the Egyptian people, and we had a lot of discussions about how to best represent the culture.
For more from Scott, head to Variety. "Exodus: Gods and Kings" is out on Dec. 12.