« L.A. Welcomes 'In the Heights' with Flash Mob | Main | Alice Eve and Michael Fassbender Cast in 'X-Men: First Class' »

Angelina Jolie Is Not African

0629 angelina
In a piece published this week, Angelina Jolie told Vanity Fair that she wants to retire from acting. The announcement no doubt caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among celebrity newsmagazine editors. But a few interested observers likely wondered whether Jolie could be convinced to expedite her Amanda Bynes moment—to, say, before she takes on the role of Cleopatra.

When producer Scott Rudin announced this month that he is working with Jolie on an adaptation of the biography “Cleopatra: A Life,” the book’s author said she thought that Jolie had “the perfect look” to play the lady pharaoh. But some critics, with images of Elizabeth Taylor dancing in their heads, cried foul.

“Just when we thought there weren’t enough leading roles for black women in Hollywood, they create one and give it to a white woman,” wrote Shirea L. Carroll at Essence.com. That there aren’t enough leading roles for black women—or for people of color in general—is not news. It’s a very old, very sorry state of affairs, one that this summer has become as obvious as Nicolas Cage’s receding hairline. The casting of white actors in Asian roles in would-be blockbusters “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “The Last Airbender” has prompted noisy grousing since long before their releases. Then, this month, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters used hearings concerning the proposed merger of Comcast and NBC Universal to decry a dearth of minorities working in front of and behind the camera (and declare her love for the defunct CW sitcom “Girlfriends”).

But the new poster boy for the lack of diversity in Hollywood is Donald Glover—comedian, co-star of NBC’s “Community,” and the world’s best Barack Obama impersonator. Last month, Glover became the subject of a fan campaign to make him the new big-screen Spider-Man. The movement—which Glover told MTV.com last week he was “floored by”—has spawned a Facebook page with more than 12,000 members, a website featuring Marvel Comics artists’ renderings of Glover as Peter Parker, and a sort-of endorsement from Spidey co-creator Stan Lee. What spawned all this? A comment responding to “Spider-Man” casting news at Io9.com: “The last thing Spider-Man should be is another white guy.”

Similarly, many are arguing that the last thing Cleopatra should be is another white woman. After all, she was black on Broadway in the person of Leslie Uggams in “Her First Roman” as far back as 1968. But Hollywood’s ability to turn a deaf ear to such complaints is well documented and doesn’t appear to be changing. Louder voices may be called for.

Pictured: Angelina Jolie, prospective Egyptian Pharaoh (Photo: Getty Images)

Dig This


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Angelina Jolie Is Not African:


The whole argument is ridiculous. Unless you are going to cast a real Egyptian as Cleopatra, you are still casting the "wrong" race.

The whole argument is ridiculous. Unless you are going to cast a real Egyptian as Cleopatra, you are still casting the "wrong" race.

Obviously, JC is white.


WTF are you talking about?! The argument is NOT ridiculous! What is a "real Egyptian" anyway? (Certainly not the arabs that currently occupy the land - that would be akin to calling the whites who took over the Native Americans' land in all of the Americas the "real Americans") The argument is about skin color. It is revolting that a certain culture of US/Hollywood would want to keep promoting their revisionist, racist twist on history. The Ancient Egyptians of that time were no more the Noridic/Anglo Saxon pale faces of Jolie & Pitt than were their counterparts to the north - The Italians/Greeks/Romans. Historically, these people were varying shades of brown, until the "barbarians" (as they called the northern europeans - the ancestors of the Germans (Visi-Goths/Gauls)/French (Franks)/etc).

It is specifically horrifying that these peoples, and their histories and stories, have been increasingly "whitened," by a racist (and intensely insecure) revisionist societal culture, in all forms and industries - from academia, to public education, to hollywood. The examples of Swedish [royalty at that] descendant Jake Gyllenhaal and other noridic/anglo saxon whites blatantly co-opting such obvious cultural pieces as Prince of Persia and the Last Airbender.

What is the reasoning for all of this? And when will it stop?

Uh, Cleopatra was Greek. Ptolemaic Dynasty, anyone?

I have to agree with DC. Hollywood clearly prefers to cast ticket-selling names in place of racially accurate actors in roles such as these. I understand why they cast well known names in these roles, but aren't there famous black actresses that could play this role as well? I know that there are, so why insist on casting a white woman? Hmmm.

@JC, Egyptian is not a race, it's a nationality

Here's the problem with casting a black woman to play Cleopatra: she WASN'T black. She was of Greek descent, part of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, founded by the Macedonian Greek general Ptolemy following the death of Alexander the Great.

I wish people would do a little research and find out the facts before complaining about something.

I am a Jolie fan because of her work as an actress, not her skin color.
But Hollywood has never fully respected the stories of other cultures by casting actors who would authentically portray the culture and story to begin with; which include their skin color.
If I were Jake Gyllenhaal I would have turned down the role of Prince of Persia. And if I was M. Night, I would have had the respect for the story I was telling in The Last Airbender and actually cast actors that are from that culture. It shouldn't be about money, it should be about respect. And sadly it isn't.

Cleopatra was of Macedonian descent, not black but more likely fair, like Alexander the Great - blond, blue-eyed even. This notion that African=black is ignorant in the extreme, and I'm surprised to hear it's still accepted as truth by otherwise well-informed people.

@JM - You wish...
@DC - I totally agree - for some reason white (europeans) seem to have this inherent gene that makes them want to revise and re-paint history in their image - dating all the way back to the visual depictions of Jesus (being blond/blue eyes)..

e.g. the Hippocratic Oath is an oath historically taken by doctors swearing to practice medicine ethically. It is widely believed to have been written by Hippocrates, the (so-called father of western medicine. But that was actually stollen from Egyptian culture. Guess what europeans were doing when egyptians were practicing medicine?

Personally, this Cleopatra business is pretty much the last straw. I don't intend to spend a dime (or a minute of my time) watching any modern film where the ethnicity of a historical character is not casted correctly - and I think we all should demand the same "Standards of Accuracy" from the film industry... I won't be buying any admission ticket where history is being strategically misrepresented...

Grow Up.

What about Will Smith playing a WHITE character in Wild Wild West. (Which he ruined BTW)

What about his kid taking the role away from another race in Karate Kid.

Funny how racist, only see what they want to see.

Total VICTIM mentality.

The world is not going to change, until YOU do. We're waiting on you.

For all the people pointing out that Cleopatra was descended from Ptolemy, a Greek -- yeah, that's true. She was *generations* descended from Ptolemy, 300 years' worth, with nearly all of her intervening ancestors being native Egyptian people. Which means she probably looked a hell of a lot more Egyptian than she did Greek. And the Egyptians of the time were pretty brown; they'd been conquered several times by the Nubians (very black-skinned, where southern Sudan is now), and they'd been trading with every other African and Middle Eastern culture for centuries. If you look at their art, they depicted themselves as very much a multiracial people in a range of colors... most of which weren't white.

To put this in perspective, 80% of African Americans are mixed-race, usually with a white ancestor or several, thanks to slavery. Most African Americans have been in the US for about the length of the Ptolemaic dynasty. So are all those people actually white?

But fine, if people think Cleopatra should look Greek, then let's cast her with a Greek actress. Jolie ain't that either.

@Codestream YOU WISH?! wtf does that mean? Sorry, but as a someone who has personally studied Egyptology for nearly 10 years I am here to tell you that Cleopatra VII was in fact Macedonian, in other words GREEK. She had red hair and deep blue eyes. Paintings of the time depict her as this and statues of the time depict her as a thin lipped, high cheekboned, broad nosed Caucasian woman PERIOD. Lets figure out who the woman is before we get mad, lets get our facts straight.

Honestly this is ridiculous. Should we get a Greek woman to play Cleo VII? Who can you honestly of off the top of your head who is Greek who could play Cleopatra as well as Angelina Jolie could? The Studios have to think of making all the money back that they put into a movie and a great way to do this is to have a bankable actress such as Jolie to star in it. Period. It has nothing to do with race.

@CCaelum: These pieces of ancient Egyptian art of Cleopatra doesn't appear to feature either red hair nor blue eyes. Furthermore, she is brown-skinned. She does have straight hair though. http://www.asmalldoseof.org/historyoftox/Antiquity/cleopatra.gif

@Mr Big - We're talking about History here, not fictional stories - nice try... Looks like your the Victim here - of your own mentality... ;-)

@CCaelum - Gasp! How many years of school? Where at, the Western Institute of Inculcation? Painted by whom - Europeans? The one's who ravaged Egyptian Culture and plagiarized it as their own?

Your saying that Egyptian artifacts are false depictions? Your "superbly" mis-educated...

The only accurate visual depictions of historical figures come from the relevant people and culture of that particular time period...

ps: thanks @r_d - I was about to go there, and further...

@Mr Big - News! we're talking about History here, not fictional stories... Looks like your the "victim" here - of your own thinking.

The reason the mainstream will only accept white images is because that's all they get to see! Blacks (and other minorities) have been spending MUCH money at the box office AND buying products that pay for TV shows for eons without much complaint. Why? Because if we wanted to watch a film or TV, we had no choice. And, unlike some white people in the rare instances when the characters are not white, we have been able to identify with the characters regardless of their race. If Hollywood (or whoever) decides to change the coloring, they might lose a few dollars at first. But eventually, people (white) will begin to watch again because they won't have a choice. And if they don't come back simply because of the color of the actors' skin, then they are simply sick individuals who don't need to be watching a film or a tv show anyway. They need to be spending their free time in therapy!

@debiro1 - so people (of any color) who DO have standards when it comes to Historical accuracy (and refuse to accept or support the degradation of Truth) are somehow abnormal (or sick) as you say? Critical Thinking is abnormal?

I guess you believe Christopher Columbus discovered America too huh?


ps: I think Angelina Jolie is a good actress and could do a good job in such role... When it comes to "Epic Depictions of History" though, the same detail that goes into the costumes and special effects, etc. should apply to casting the correct ethnicity of the culture/characters themselves... Hollywood has run amok and we should demand excellence in what's put before us, especially when it comes to History...

Angelina Jolie is frighteningly well-suited to play the person, the woman, the historical controversy and power of Cleopatra. How white is white? She has brown hair and brown eyes, golden olivey skin and that means that there is good old black blood in her history, as in the history of 97% of "white" Americans. I myself, a black irish have exotic features and annoyingly white skin, with dark brown eyes and darkbrown kinky hair. When I was modeling, a few good jobs I had were with skin darkening make-up. I was told by the major agents, that with my features my skin was just TOO WHITE! and I could never hold a tan, so a perfect swimsuit body didn't help too much either! But enough about pale white skin in the fashion world. When I look at the form of that internationally adored, gorgously perfect face, her public issues, the publicity of her love life, the controversy of her own power, I see a young confused overempowered woman very like Cleopatra, a victim of herself, a victim of her beauty, her youth, her mistakes and her greed. I think she can truly bring life and fascination to the story Cleopatra, and I am not a fan, but I think Cleopatra is a vehicle she may actually inhabit, PLEASE DON'T GIVE HER AN ACCENT!!!!! BAD IDEA. Cleopatra is an historical character, she is not a person of a particular color, but a particular series of historical events put her into her situation. Angelina Jolie shares that global power and controversy. She is already more Cleopatra than any actress I can imagine. Halle Berry may have the perfect skin tone of the Cleopatra of the history books, but she has not the Cleopatra syndrome. Jolie has. I look forward to when the movie comes to cable and I can enjoy it, search for a better acting job than she has ever put forth! She has almost never had her role; for me she resonated as the evil lover of Antonia Banderas in that Columbian coffee cartel movie. She is best as a murderous, passion outside of ethics type, and bombs as the good girl. Whatever we may believe about Jolie and/or Cleopatra, there is no better human in the current public eye to command the attention, anticipation, controversy and deliver a very real Cleopatra to the modern world. Their circumstances are so similar, and this has nothing to do with the color of their skin.

The comments to this entry are closed.