Gal Gadot as Queen of Egypt: Facts You Should Know as Cleopatra Casting Gets Mired in Controversy

Israeli actress Gal Gadot announced on Sunday that she would be joining forces with 'Wonder Woman' director Patty Jenkins in an upcoming film about the legendary Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. However, Gadot's casting as Cleopatra in the new film has led to severe criticism about the Egyptian ruler's ancestry and whether the actress is right for the role.

Announcing her new project on Twitter, Gadot wrote: "I love embarking on new journeys, I love the excitement of new projects, the thrill of bringing new stories to life. Cleopatra is a story I wanted to tell for a very long time. Can't be more grateful about this A team."

According to Entertainment Weekly, the period biographical drama, which will be written by Laeta Kalogridis, is a retelling of the epic tale made famous by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 classic. Gadot will take on the lead role as the Queen of Egypt, while Jenkins will helm the upcoming drama. Gadot will also serve as producer of the film under her Pilot Wave Motion Pictures banner.

Gadot, who became a household name after playing Wonder Woman in two Jenkins projects (including the upcoming 'Woman Woman 1984'), is of Israeli descent. Gadot is not the first white woman cast in the role of the legendary Egyptian queen. Claudette Colbert, Vivien Leigh, and Elizabeth Taylor have all portrayed the ruler in the past, playing a woman who romanced Julius Caesar and Marc Antony and served as the last ruler of Egypt's Ptolemaic Kingdom.

Produced by Paramount Pictures, the upcoming film is hogging the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The news of Gadot being cast as Cleopatra has sparked a massive outcry on social media, with netizens slamming the actress, stating complaints of miscasting.

The announcement drew severe criticism, with some railing against the casting of an Israeli star as the Queen of Egypt, saying that an Arab or Black woman should have gotten the role. While a few others objected simply because she is Israeli.

One Twitter user wrote: "It's a shame you aren't advocating for African actresses who would better fit the part. Please do better." The user further added, "Cleopatra was an Egyptian woman with greek ancestry. Gal Gadot is Israeli. Please just try a lil harder."

Another one, slamming the miscasting, tweeted: "THE DISRESPECT! THE DISRESPECT! THE DISRESPECT," and added "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."

Another user wrote: "What is the point of making another movie about Cleopatra if they will not get her story right? Casting @GalGadot to play any historical MENA #woman is just tasteless and disrespectful."

However, many others were quick to point out that Cleopatra was neither Arab nor Black but rather a Macedonian Greek. One user wrote: "Another attempt to whitewash a historical figure! U are a white Israeli woman. Cleopatra was MACEDONIAN and EGYPTIAN. It's awful how u deny important roles to women of color!!!!"

Another one tweeted, "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."

"Dear Americans please read this before you go off calling Gal Gadot's Cleopatra not being "black" a crime. She was pure Greek. Get educated," wrote another person.

The legendary Egyptian Queen Cleopatra was the last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt, descended from Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general and companion of Alexander the Great. Gadot did not react to the ongoing 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."

Gadot wrote, "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."

Taylor famously starred in the 1963 film Cleopatra in the titular role. The iconic drama bagged four Academy Awards and was designated the most expensive film ever made during that time. A film in which Angelina Jolie was set to play the role of the legendary ruler was announced in 2011 but the project, which was in development at Sony Pictures, failed to materialize.

Gal Gadot
Gal Gadot talked about playing the woman lead in a superhero movie Reuters

'Wonder Woman 1984' is an upcoming highly-anticipated sequel from Jenkins and Gadot, a follow-up to their hit 2017 debut about the Amazon princess set to be released on Christmas Day. The DC Comics film was one of the many movies affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with its original release date being June 5.