Could Hollywood get ready to whitewash Cleopatra yet again? The tabloid rags suggest it could be a possibility.
A Sony insider alleges the studio is looking into casting Lady Gaga as Cleopatra, according to The Daily Star (as quoted by The Mirror). Angelina Jolie was initially thought to be in the running. Supposedly, according to the source, Jolie and Gaga might have to audition for the role due to how closely considered they are by Sony.
Of course, these are rumors at this point. In fact, according to Gossip Cop, Lady Gaga’s spokesperson says the entire story is fabricated and, they have “no knowledge of the singer being in the running for the Cleopatra movie.”
While a film about Cleopatra has been linked to Jolie from as far back in 2010, the film has lingered in development hell for years. For right now, everything seems to be wild speculation, especially since Deadline, Variety and other trustworthy outlets haven’t reported on the rumors at all.
However, if Gaga or Jolie were ever indeed up for the running, perhaps the release of the rumor was to test the idea with prospective audience members. So far, it’s been the equivalent of a dumpster fire, with everyone yelling at each other about what ancestry Cleopatra had.
There is a lot of debate over the exact DNA makeup of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, of which Cleopatra was a part. There were Greek and Roman citizens within Egypt at this time as well as native Egyptians, and Cleopatra herself is considered by many to be biracial since she was both Greek and Egyptian. With that said, if a Cleopatra film has to be made, why not cast an Egyptian actress for the role? It should be that simple.
If Hollywood chooses to go the route of whitewashing, it will prove that the industry hasn’t learned anything from the horrors that were Exodus: God and Kings and Gods of Egypt. The film community roasted those films for hiring white actors to play North African characters. The movies also showed how the “swords and sandals” epics of old are now played out if they play by the same mid-century casting rules.
Because of the controversies surrounding the films, both were considered box office failures. Exodus cost $200 million to make, but only made $268.2 million at the box office, making only about $68 million in profit. Gods of Egypt cost $140 million, but made just $150.7 million at the box office, garnering a measly $10 million in profit.
In short, it should be clear that whitewashing is no longer worth the headache of social media and poor box office returns. In other words, hiring white people to play roles of color is no longer a lucrative or acceptable action for a studio. There are plenty of actresses of color who could play the part. Even better, a film about Cleopatra could be an excellent opportunity to discover a new actress of color, perhaps a new Egyptian-American actress who’s looking to get her start.
With that said, we’ll keep you posted on if Gaga, Jolie or anyone else is cast as Cleopatra.
Cleopatra seems to be on Hollywood’s mind as of late; in January 2018, Freeform was looking into creating a Cleopatra-centric period drama. There has been no word of any possible castings. Also, even though a writers room has been at work on scripts, there has been no word on any forward motion with the series.