The backlash over Angelina Jolie’s casting as African queen Cleopatra in an upcoming biopic is picking up steam.
It all started earlier this month when producer Scott Rudin announced he was developing the film “for and with Jolie” based on Stacy Schiff’s book “Cleopatra: A Life.” Schiff applauded the choice, telling USA Today, “Physically, she’s the perfect look.”
Needless to say, the casting is not sitting well among many African Americans, who have taken to Internet sites – including this one – to voice outrage over yet another white actress being chosen to play the Egyptian queen.
“I don’t care how full Angelina Jolie’s lips are, how many African children she adopts, or how bronzed her skin will become for the film,” Shirea Carroll wrote in an editorial for Essence.com. “I firmly believe this role should have gone to a black woman…What’s next? A biopic on Sojourner Truth played by Betty White?”
This isn’t the first time Jolie has found herself at the center of a debate about race in Hollywood. In 2007, she raised eyebrows within the African American community when she wore dark make-up to play the role of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s wife Marian, who is partly of African descent. Pearl herself took to the press to defend Jolie, telling Time Magazine, “It is not about the color of your skin. It is about who you are.”
While experts can’t say with certainty what Cleopatra looked like, physically speaking, Jolie certainly doesn’t fit with the features historians now know she inhabited. In addition to the wrong skin color, Jolie is also thought to be too tall, too skinny and too striking to mirror the real Cleopatra.
“Sadly for those who seek the secret of her personal allure, the more we study Cleopatra’s surviving images, the less certain we may be of her [allegedly gorgeous] looks,” Susan Walker, a senior curator at the British Museum, told the British Sunday Times.
In fact, according to ABC News, Egyptologists insist that the legendary temptress, known for having used her beauty to seduce Roman Emperor Julius Caesar and general Mark Anthony, was actually “short, fat and plain.”
Elizabeth Taylor was the first to portray the famous queen on film in 1963′s “Cleopatra.”