Recent decisions to cast white actors in movies like “Gods of Egypt,” “Doctor Strange” and “Ghost in the Shell” have reignited discussions about whitewashing, but Hollywood doesn’t appear to be listening. With the news that Leonardo DiCaprio is being looked at the play the 13th-century Persian poet Jalaluddin al-Rumi in a new biopic and Robert Downey Jr. is high on the list to co-star as the mystic Shams of Tabriz, many have taken to social media to air their grievances.
“This is the level of casting that we’re talking about,” producer Stephen Joel Brown said, while Academy Award–winning screenwriter David Franzoni (“Gladiator”) has told the Guardian that his intention is to “challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in western cinema” and give “a face and a story” to the massively influential poet. That face may not actually resemble Rumi’s, but here we are.
The #RumiWasntWhite hashtag has taken off as a result, with tweets like “Hollywood insists that people only want movies w/ white actors, the reality is *they* only want movies w/ white actors” giving voice to the backlash. No casting decisions have actually been made yet, nor has DiCaprio commented on the situation.