The recent releases of the official trailer and posters for Gods of Egypt contained men with wings that could appear and disappear at will, magical objects and large mess-making monsters but what many found too unrealistic to believe was that ancient Egypt appeared to be populated solely by Caucasians. There had already been a petition in 2013 with 20,000 signatures not to have an “all-white cast”. With threats of a boycott bouncing around the Internet, the distribution company, Lionsgate released two statements.
The first is from Lionsgate themselves:
”We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that casting decisions reflect the diversity and culture of the time periods portrayed. In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity, for which we sincerely apologize. Lionsgate is deeply committed to making films that reflect the diversity of our audiences. We have, can and will continue to do better.”
The second is from director Alex Proyas:
“The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse. I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we made.”
Fellow film director, Ava DuVernay, praised the apology as “This kind of apology never happens - for something that happens all the time. An unusual occurrence worth noting.” but made it clear that it was not praise for the film itself; “Gods of Egypt makes me value Abrams’ STAR WARS choices more. Makes me cheer more for Coogler’s CREED. We all deserve icons in our own image.”
Of the 36 listed cast members on IMDB, only about 13 are people of color and the overwhelming majority of those are in unnamed parts or characters like “Young Human Soldier”. This is a common occurrence among most production companies but it’s started costing them. The biggest complaints of “white-washing” for the last twelve months were for Exodus: Gods and Kings and Pan. Exodus made just 65 and Pan 34 million dollars in the United States. Yet, the complaints of racism didn’t hurt them overseas. Exodus made 200 million worldwide and Pan did 123 million dollars. Plus, Lionsgate already has a Chinese distributor lined up for Gods of Egypt.
Proyas was born in Egypt to Greek parents but moved to Australia when he was three. Australia was where Gods of Egypt was shot. Whether it was due to his preference or the same tax breaks that enticed various sequels due out in the coming years is unsure. However, since Australia and Africa aren’t even in the same hemisphere. that does make it more difficult to hire Africans for the cast and crew. Portions of the production were briefly scheduled for the Sahara but scrapped because of safety concerns. Film-making is a booming business in Africa. In Nigeria, it’s the second largest employer but mainstream films are still rare that utilize this resource.