Gal Gadot announced she is set to play Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, in an upcoming film by Patty Jenkins. Gadot and Jenkins have worked together before on the blockbuster hit “Wonder Woman.”
Writer Laeta Kalogridis will also work on the Cleopatra film, Gadot tweeted on Sunday. Cleopatra’s story will be brought to the big screen “in a way she’s never been seen before,” Gadot wrote, “To tell her story for the first time through women’s eyes, both behind and in front of the camera.”
Gadot also acknowledged that her announcement came on a significant day – International Day of the Girl. “We hope women and girls all around the world, who aspire to tell stories will never give up on their dreams and will make their voices heard, by and for other women,” she wrote in a second tweet.
While Gadot’s tweets received more than 25,000 “likes,” the casting was also criticized. Many said Gadot, who is Israeli, should not play a ruler of Egypt, and some called the casting “whitewashing.”
“Can’t wait to boycott this white washing disaster, so many wrongs!” wrote Wael Mansour, a host and singer from Egypt.
“Gal.. I’m a fan. As a black, female, Environmental Safety Scientist, this is a EXCELLENT example of why I can’t break into some scientific circles.. #WhiteWashing. Cleopatra was an AFRICAN Egyptian and was likely of color,” Gwen K. Lynn replied to Gadot’s tweet.
“That’s cool but shouldn’t be a person with Egyptian roots?” said another tweet, which was shared on Instagram by a publication for Gen Z and millennial Muslims.
However, other social media users argued that Cleopatra was Macedonian Greek, as she was a ruler of Egypt but was part of a dynasty of Macedonian rulers founded by Ptolemy, who was a general under Alexander the Great during his conquest of Egypt.
“Cleopatra was neither African nor Egyptian. She was Greek. And she’s been portrayed on-screen by Elizabeth Taylor, Claudette Colbert, Geneviève Bujold, among others. Charleston Heston and Richard burton portrayed Roman Marc Anthony and no one made a peep,” one Twitter user wrote.
Stacy Schiff, author of “Cleopatra: A Life,” told NBC News, “there’s next to no chance that Cleopatra had anything other than Greek Macedonian blood.” Schiff said at least 10 of the 15 or so Ptolemaic marriages that preceded Cleopatra’s were between siblings and that two others were between blood relatives.
Still, Cleopatra ruled ancient Egypt for nearly three decades as co-regent, and many argued that she should be played by someone with Egyptian lineage.
“I know Egyptians who took DNA tests and came back with significant Greek markers,” tweeted Margari Aziza, co-founder and executive director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, a California-based organization focused on racial justice.
“This Cleopatra movie is not going to do well in the Egypt, the country where it based, because of the politics of the actress. But wypipo don’t care about the cultural sensitivities of North Africans,” she continued in another tweet.
“My tweet was in solidarity with Egyptian people who deserve some autonomy in the narratives about their history. It’s not about your weird racial logic that is based on some 19th century eugenics,” Aziza wrote.