Exodus: Ridley Scott explains 'racist' Gods and Kings casting

British director says the biblical film Exodus wouldn't be financed if the lead actor was called 'Mohammad so-and-so'


Ridley Scott has reignited the controversy surrounding his casting decisions for the film Exodus: Gods and Kings by saying it would have been impossible to finance the movie if the lead actor was "Mohammad so-and-so".

The film, due out next month, has already caused outrage for what critics call its "whitewashing" of African history, due to a lack of ethnic diversity in the casting.

The story tells the biblical tale of how Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, but the main roles have been given to actors such as Christian Bale, Aaron Paul and Sigourney Weaver.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

"Not only are all the main characters white, but the servants, thieves and assassins are played by Africans," said writer and editor David Dennis Jr who argues that the film promotes negative black stereotypes and denies black actors leading roles. "This is cinematic colonialism [..] and is racist as sh*t.

"While Ridley Scott may think he's just making a movie, he's participating in this crippling structure of subjugation and Hollywood is footing the bill for it," writes Dennis.

Responding to the criticism, the 76-year-old British director said: "I can't mount a film of this budget and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such."

I'm just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn't even come up," he told Variety.

Scott previously said he had been "sensitive" in casting actors from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, but that "there are many different theories about the ethnicity of the Egyptian people".

White Australian actor Joel Edgerton who plays the pharaoh Ramses told SBS he could "empathise" with the arguments, but he said he was not responsible for casting and did not want to turn the role down.

Scott's most recent comments have reignited the social media campaign calling on the public to boycott the film.

So the Ancient Egyptians slaves were black, but the Kings and queens were all white right smh. #BoycottExodusMovie pic.twitter.com/YVKIwJD8R4 — Ca$h~Flow~Mind~$tate (@Early_Da_Prince) November 23, 2014

#BoycottExodusMovie I Support the movement pic.twitter.com/QXPcgdCARp — The Fresh Prince (@FlyGuyTony) November 17, 2014

#BoycottExodusMovie.... Whitewashing is completely unnecessary. Their are plenty of Actors of African descent who can play those roles — Keshawn (@EmperorCharming) November 15, 2014

So I guess the only historically correct movies involving the history of black people are movies about slavery. #BoycottExodusMovie ... — DJQevlar™ verified (@DJQevlar) November 12, 2014

like seriously Dreamworks did a better job being historically accurate than Exodus #BoycottExodusMovie pic.twitter.com/UzGTSjGqcp — TARS (@thetheethan) November 12, 2014

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us