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Gal Gadot to play Cleopatra - and the backlash has started

Critics say the role should have been given to a person of colour in order to be historically accurate and representative
The film was Gadot’s idea and will be directed by Patty Jenkins and scripted by Laeta Kalogridis (AFP)

Israeli actor Gal Gadot’s announcement that she will star as Cleopatra in an upcoming Paramount film has been met with fierce criticism.

Many people on social media have called out the actor, best known for her role as Wonder Woman, saying it should have been given to a person of colour in order to be historically accurate and representative.

Gadot shared her excitement in taking up the role on Twitter, saying that the film will tell Cleopatra’s story “for the first time through women’s eyes, both behind and in front of the camera”. 

The film was Gadot’s idea and will be directed by Patty Jenkins and scripted by Laeta Kalogridis. 

Cleopatra was the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, ruling Egypt from 51BC to 30BC. She was the descendant of Ptolemy I, who was of Macedonian Greek heritage, and established himself as the king of Egypt following the death of Alexander the Great.

While Cleopatra was born in Egypt, her mother’s identity remains unknown, making her lineage difficult to trace. However, some scholars and researchers believe she would have also had Persian and Syrian ancestry. 

Social media users have denounced the actor’s announcement to play the role of the famous Egyptian queen, with some suggesting Middle Eastern actors who they think would be better suited for the role.

Gadot’s announcement on Instagram was also met with a backlash, with hundreds of people commenting that the film will likely "whitewash history" and that it should include more representation of Greeks and North Africans.

Some questioned if any of the other actors in the film would be of Greek or Egyptian origin, although further details on castings of other roles are yet to be announced. 

Many of the critiques also cited Gadot’s role in supporting the Israeli army, for which she has received criticism in the past. 

In 2018, Palestinian blogger Amani al-Khatahtbeh refused to accept an award from the beauty company Revlon, as Gal Gadot was the ambassador for the brand’s newest campaign.

The blogger said that she could not accept the award due to the actor’s vocal support for the Israeli army.

Gadot shared a message of support for the army on Facebook at the height of Israel's assault on Gaza in 2014, which was widely condemned online. 

The conflict resulted in at least 2,200 Palestinians being killed and 20,000 homes destroyed.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.