It is 2016, and it seems that those in Hollywood are still trying to cast white actors as people of color. Although nothing is currently set in stone, screenwriter David Franzoni (Gladiator) wants his new film to “challenge Muslim stereotypes.” But when the conversation turned to casting, he announced that he wants Leonardo DiCaprio to play the role of famous 13th century Muslim poet, Rumi. Let’s break that down: he wants to challenge Muslim representation — by casting a white man in the role of a Muslim poet. This is the most logical thing I’ve heard since Kanye West thought he could throw a “surprise” impromptu concert in New York City.
For those who don’t know much about Rumi, he was more than a poet. He was a highly regarded spiritual master and scholar, and he’s quietly become the best-selling poet in the U.S.
So to state that you’d like to cast a (very talented) but very white actor as a historical figure and highly respected member of the Muslim community is blatantly disrespectful. As expected, the internet is up-in-arms over this. The now trending hashtag #RumiWasntWhite calls attention to the blatant miscasting of this character as twitter users plea for the Rumi film creators to veer off this redundant path.
Come on, we can do better Hollywood.