Film’s producers don’t see a problem.
Last month, GOOD reported on the #StarringJohnCho movement to promote the casting of Asian characters in lead roles. This came on the heels of a social media backlash against the studios after Emma Stone played a one-quarter Chinese character in Aloha and Scarlett Johansson was recently cast as a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell. Now, in its latest example of outright racist white-washing, producers would like to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Persian poet, Rumi.
In an interview with The Guardian, screenwriter David Franzoni (Gladiator) and producer Stephen Brown (The Fugitive), discussed the importance that Rumi has played in Muslim culture. “He’s like a Shakespeare,” Franzoni told The Guardian. “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.” When asked who they’d like to star in the lead roles of the film they suggested two white actors: Leonardo DiCaprio as Rumi and Robert Downey Jr. as Shams of Tabriz. “This is the level of casting that we’re talking about,” Brown said.
As one could imagine, the idea of casting Leonardo DiCaprio as a Sufi mystic didn’t go over well on social media. It inspired #RumoWasntWhite as well as a hilarious cartoon by Iranian artist Shahab Jafarnejad.