- Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Turner)
The screenwriter of “Gladiator,” David Franzoni, is beginning work on a biopic about 13th-century Muslim poet Jalaluddin al-Rumi, and his idea for who could play the role is not going over well with people.
According to The Guardian, Leonardo DiCaprio is his first choice to play Rumi. He also mentioned Robert Downey Jr. for the role of Shams Tabrizi, spiritual instructor of Rumi.
Though Franzoni and the film’s producer, Stephen Joel Brown, say casting is still far off, Brown points out that these A-list names are the “level of casting we’re taking about.”
But early rumblings of Oscar winner DiCaprio potentially playing Rumi have caused many on the internet to call out the project as the latest example of Hollywood whitewashing. Critics are using the hashtag #RumiWasntWhite.
So they want a white man to play Rumi, a SUFI PERSIAN poet, but when they need a terrorist they find Muslim actors so easily #RumiWasntWhite
— Aayesha (@AayeshaJ) June 7, 2016
Hollywood insists that people only want movies w/ white actors, the reality is *they* only want movies w/ white actors. #RumiWasntWhite
— Kirsten Thompson (@katannthompson) June 8, 2016
So, Idris Elba can’t play Bond because that is a white character but Leonardo DiCaprio can play Rumi. #RumiWasntWhite
— Madiha Sajid (@madihasaj) June 7, 2016
— J.A.K. Lacroix (@jaklacroix) June 7, 2016
The film will focus on Rumi’s teachings and his encounter with Shams, according to The Guardian story, but it looks like casting will be a major hurdle. With audiences being more vocal than ever about the authenticity of casting, Franzoni and Brown will need to tread lightly to make sure the project doesn’t become another “Exodus: Gods and Kings” or “Gods of Egypt.” In both of those films, the cast was predominately made up of Europeans.
Both movies ended up being box-office busts.