After USA Today broke the news last week that Angelina Jolie would be taking on the role of Cleopatra in an upcoming adaptation of Stacy Schiff’s biography of the Queen of the Nile (“Physically, she’s got the perfect look,” Schiff said), there has been something of an outcry on African-American blogs and message boards about the casting.
Jolie would be the latest in a series of white women to play Cleopatra, as Claudette Colbert (1934), Vivien Leigh (1945), and Elizabeth Taylor (1963) have all tackled the iconic role. Essence.com featured a column titled “Another White Actress to Play Cleopatra?” in which writer Shirea L. Carroll bemoans the fact that the role in this new project wasn’t offered to an actress of color.
“Honestly, I don’t care how full Angelina Jolie’s lips are, how many African children she adopts, or how bronzed her skin will become for the film, I firmly believe this role should have gone to a Black woman,” Carroll wrote, “Were Vanessa Williams, Halle Berry and Thandie Newton unavailable for auditions that day? Why does Hollywood think it’s even slightly plausible to cast White women in roles that would be more sensible to cast a Black actress for? Especially when that role is an African queen.”
It’s probably only a matter of time before the “Zoe Saldana for Cleopatra” Facebook campaign takes shape.
Backlash over Angelina Jolie as Cleopatra [Marquee/CNN]