Writer of upcoming Rumi biopic wants to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Jalal al-Din Rumi and Robert Downey Jr. as his mentor Shams of Tabriz. What's wrong with this picture?
Hollywood has long angered racial minorities with its casting choices and it seems tinseltown has every intention of keeping the tradition alive. Gladiator and Amistad writer David Franzoni who is currently penning the movie script for a big-budget biopic of Jalal al-Din Rumi caused an outcry when he voiced his wishes to see Leonardo DiCaprio play the famed Sufi poet and cast Robert Downey Jr. as the poet’s spiritual mentor, Shams of Tabriz, reports Foreign Policy.
This comes following numerous controversial moves by the movie industry, most recently #OscarsSoWhite and the all-white casts of Exodus: Gods and Kings, Gods of Egypt, and basically every single film ever made about anyone who isn’t white. The best-selling poet in the US was born right outside of the Persian Empire and the internet is now up in arms about Hollywood continuing with its theme of whitewashing by wanting to cast actors that don't reflect Rumi's heritage.
In an interview with The Guardian, Franzoni compared Rumi to Shakespeare, adding: “He’s a character who has enormous talent and worth to his society and his people, and obviously resonates today. Those people are always worth exploring.”
The film’s producer Stephen Joel Brown and Franzoni also told the British newspaper that the project aims to “challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in Western cinema by charting the life of the great Sufi scholar.” However, it seems their reasoning is lost on a lot of people as many took to social media to express their outrage.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Rumi!— Raneem AlAwashiz (@Raneem_A) June 7, 2016
Seriously? #RumiWasntWhite FGS 🙃
Rumi was born in Balkh, Afghanistan. He was Afghan. Hollywood, get it right if you are gonna make a film. #RumiWasntWhite— mariamamini (@mariamamini) June 7, 2016
Don't "challenge Muslim stereotypes" by trying to change fact and history #RumiWasntWhite— Khushii (@____Zugzwang) June 6, 2016
Is this a joke Hollywood?? #RumiWasntWhite— Aniqah C (@AniqahC) June 6, 2016