Israel-born actress Gal Gadot announced Sunday that she would team up again with “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins in a new film about the legendary Egyptian Queen Cleopatra.
“I love embarking on new journeys, I love the excitement of new projects, the thrill of bringing new stories to life,” Gadot wrote.
“Cleopatra is a story I wanted to tell for a very long time. Can’t be more grateful about this A team,” Gadot wrote.
The film will be produced by Paramount Pictures and written by Laeta Kalogridis in a retelling of the epic tale made famous by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 classic.
The announcement drew criticism, with some railing against the casting of an Israeli as the Queen of Egypt, saying that an Arab or Black woman should have won the role.
Others objected simply because she is Israeli.
“Which Hollywood dumbass thought it would be a good idea to cast an Israeli actress as Cleopatra (a very bland looking one) instead of a stunning Arab actress like Nadine Njeim?” tweeted journalist Sameera Khan. “And shame on you, Gal Gadot. Your country steals Arab land & you’re stealing their movie roles.”
Which Hollywood dumbass thought it would be a good idea to cast an Israeli actress as Cleopatra (a very bland looking one) instead of a stunning Arab actress like Nadine Njeim?
— sameera khan (@SameeraKhan) October 11, 2020
“How about they cast someone with North African blood! someone like Sofia Boutella! I’m so sick of casting white actors and Israelis as pharaohs and arab roles! Gal Gadot shouldn’t be Cleopatra,” wrote another Twitter user.
However, many, including the screenplay author, were quick to point out that Cleopatra was neither Arab nor Black, but rather a Macedonian Greek.
“Incredibly excited to get the chance to tell the story of Cleopatra, my favorite Ptolemaic Pharoah and arguably the most famous Macedonian Greek woman in history,” tweeted Kalogridis.
Cleopatra was the last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt, descended from Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general and companion of Alexander the Great.
I'm going to say this once and I'm not going to say it again, Cleopatra was Greek.
Yes, she was in Egyptian ruler but she was Greek with Persian and Syrian ancestry. The people who are reacting negatively that to this are uneducated and uninformed.
Gal Gadot deserves this role. pic.twitter.com/7h1oYu9ClX
— The Moonlight Warrior ???? (@BlackMajikMan90) October 11, 2020
Others noted that Gadot was a major box office draw and that Paramount would be unlikely to cast an unknown actress in such a major role. Gadot this month came third on the Forbes list of the highest-paid actresses in the world in 2020.
Gadot did not react to the controversy, but later tweeted that the film would mark the first time Cleopatra’s story would be told through “women’s eyes, both behind and in front of the camera.”
As you might have heard I teamed up with @PattyJenks and @LKalogridis to bring the story of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, to the big screen in a way she’s never been seen before. To tell her story for the first time through women's eyes, both behind and in front of the camera. pic.twitter.com/k5eyTIfzjB
— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) October 12, 2020
The first “Wonder Woman” film was the highest-grossing movie in the summer of 2017, earning $412.5 million in the US and $821.8 million worldwide.
In August the trailer dropped for the much-anticipated “Wonder Woman 1984,” which has had its release delayed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic. In it, Gadot reprises her role as Diana Prince, the Amazonian Princess Diana of Themyscira, in the sequel to the 2017 DC film.
Gadot’s Israeli heritage has caused her some problems in the Arab world before, with Lebanon banning “Wonder Woman” because she starred in it.
Gadot, who like most young Israelis did military service, made headlines in 2014 with a Facebook post expressing solidarity with Israeli citizens under Hamas rocket fire and Israeli soldiers fighting the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.
“I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens,” she wrote. “Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children.”