A film on Persian poet Jalaluddin al-Rumi is in the works after the Oscar-winning writer of Gladiator, Dave Franzoni, was reportedly signed on to pen the script.
Franzoni and producer Stephen Joel Brown told the Guardian that although it’s “too early to begin casting,” they hoped Leonardo DiCaprio would play Rumi in the upcoming biopic on the 13th century Muslim poet.
David Franzoni said he hoped to “challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in western cinema” by giving “a face and a story” to the Sufi scholar whose epic poetry has been translated into many languages and remains “hugely popular” in the United States.
The rumours that DiCaprio is a frontrunner to play Rumi haven’t gone unnoticed on social media, where many have been quick to call out the blatant whitewashing at play, and a hashtag, #RumiWasntWhite has emerged.
Many are questioning why a Hollywood biopic about one of the most-lauded Muslim poets in history should cast a white actor to play Rumi. Others are pointing at the makers’ failure to consider Persian actors for the movie.
But this isn’t the only example of Hollywood casting white actors to play people of colour: Another famous white guy, Robert Downey Jr, is being eyed to play Shams of Tabriz, the Iranian spiritual advisor to Rumi.
Earlier, the February blockbuster flop Gods of Egypt too cast white actors (and extras) to play ancient Egyptians, and Scarlett Johansson was recently cast to play an Asian character in a live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, based on a comic series.
But even before the casting is finalised, film fans are protesting using the Twitter hashtag #RumiWasntWhite.
Sample some of the reactions:
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
remember when idris elba wasn't "english enough" to play james bond, but it's chill if leo dicaprio plays rumi #RumiWasntWhite— a a m i n a (@aaminasdfghjkl) June 7, 2016
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