June 17th, 2010
12:12 PM ET

Backlash over Angelina Jolie as Cleopatra

The author of the biography "Cleopatra: A Life" may be hailing Angelina Jolie as the perfect choice to play the queen, but some folks aren't so sure.

On African American blogs and message boards, people are speaking out against the casting of Jolie in a role they believe should go to an actress of color.

Essence.com recently featured a commentary titled, "Another White Actress to Play Cleopatra?" where the writer opined, "Honestly, I don't care how full Angelina Jolie's lips are, how many African children she adopts, or how bronzed her skin will become for the film, I firmly believe this role should have gone to a Black woman."

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soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. Lizzy Bee

    Too often I have seen posters state that "Cleopatra was white" with certainty. How do you all know? I know, because she was a Ptolemy and the Ptolemies kept their bloodline pure. At some point, Cleopatra married both of her brothers, but did not have children with either of them. She did, however, have a son by Julius Caesar; a Roman. My point is, no one knows with any certainty Cleopatra's genetic makeup.
    Personally, I do not care what race Cleopatra was; but her portrayal by Jolie would be a travesty. Unless in this version, Cleopatra is a gun-toting, pouty, shrieking shrew with a tendency to over-emote.

    June 19, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. BrianCNN

    I think Madonna should play Cleopatra because she lives in Europe now.

    June 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. melvin jenkins

    wow i wonder the world hate white America, probably to many bushlike thinkers huh?

    June 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MEME

    I definately believe that Cleopatra was a person of color..... the history books are so distorted and inaccurate that you have to literally search for things yourselves.... hell, they tried to shoot the noses off of the statues in egypt to make them look more European because they didn't want it to go down in history that people of color were indeed royals..... if you look at the hieroglyphics of the ancient egyptians, you will see that the people they painted were people of color.... it's no shock to me that Hollywood would depict a white person to play Cleopatra or Jesus for that matter... I also find it funny that people are proclaiming that Cleopatra was white, when recently scientists had a computer generated composite sketch of what she may have looked like.... and it didn't look anything like Elizabeth Taylor or any other white woman for that matter....... The entire Ptolemy story was probably made up by the Greeks in order to dissociate her being a person of color.... you guys should stop lookin' in those inaccurate history books and do some REAL research....

    June 20, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • meech

      your view is nothing but an opinion. Where is the proof that Cleopatra was black...there is none.You proof my point of the black community not being taken seriously by the rest of society. All the evidence points to Cleo being a Greek – White. Check out this bust of Cleo from ancient times http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kleopatra-VII.-Altes-Museum-Berlin1.jpg . Does this look like a black person? No it does not. The black community should be focusing on more important things like black on black crime and fatherless children and the deep anti intellectualism that tags any smart black kid as being too white instead of trying to appropriate history and culture from other races. Accept this and move on with your life. I have noticed in North America that the truth is no longer good enough...political correctness has trumped everything. No wonder the rest of the world is laughing their asses off at us. We have become a true joke, the dumbest people in the world. Where else in the world would they allow ebonics to be taught and where else in the world would they drop standards in order to not the hurt the feelings of a race group? Only in America.

      June 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MEME

    Maybe they should get Denzel Washington to play the Pope..... and we'll see whose the color struck people.......

    June 20, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • belle

      Or Will Smith could play Elvis that would be ...interesting

      June 24, 2010 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |

    Money runs Hollywood. Angelina means money at the box office. Nothing, absolutely nothing else matters. Movies studios are not charities. The shareholders want profits. Holly is not colourblind. It is MONEYBLIND.

    June 20, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sir X

    Cleopatra, the last Egyptian Pharaoh, was part African, says a BBC team which believes it has found her sister's tomb.


    June 20, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • tinaru

      Nope you are 100% wrong. They did not find her sister Arsinoe. Neither Cleopatra nor Arsinoe had a black mother, their mother was Cleopatra Tryphaena, a Ptolemiac Queen and as white a Cleo and Arsinoe. Arsinoe's remains have not been found.

      1) That isn't Arsinoe in that tomb, the skeleton remains are too young to be Arsinoe. Those remains are of a young girl in her teens, Arsinoe died when she was in her twenties.

      2) The skeleton remains show no signs of trauma. Its a fact that Arsinoe was killed in a violent fashion. Arsinoe's skeleton remains would show evidence of this.

      ......even the lead researcher on that project was bothered by these two facts

      3) The tomb was build DECADES after Arsinoe was killed.

      4) The way they determined the race of the skeleton remains in the that tomb are dubious at best. They used the outdated cephalic index that most credible forensic scientists do not use anymore because it has been proven to be inaccurate given the fact that one can't tell a person's race based upon skull size. If that's the case the King Tut is actually white because according to the same cephalic index these fools used to determine the 'race' of the skeleton remains this this tomb, King Tut is brachycephalic which is typical of 'Caucasians' not sub-Saharan Africans according to the cephalic index. So all these people who are jumping on the bandwagon of Arsinoe being 'biracial' based upon the outdated cephalic index from this dubious article, are you also jumping on the bandwagon when the same cephalic index states Tut was 'Caucasian' not black African based upon the outdated cephalic index?

      June 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RB8720

    OMG quite your crying about who is cast for what role in a movie. When all of you people complaing about angelina Jolie as Cleopatra start complaing about BET and the Black Miss America padgent, or The Black Coaches Assiciation, or the fact that whites have to score higher on college entrance test than blacks to get accepted, then maybe you wont seem like such hypocrites. No one complained when Will Smith was cast in an obviously white role in the wild wild west. He in that role is definitely much less beleivable than Angelina Jolie as Cleopatra, yet I still watched to movie and enjoyed it for what it was.

    June 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • you lose

      Crying are you serious? I know with all the diversity in the entertainment industry Lost, Grey's Anatomy and Glee it's great for people of color to be able to stand in the background. I like how if certain white people see people of color's mere presence as progress. Yes we are there but an actual story or plot line for more than 2 episodes per season would be nice. It would be great to see a movie about another culture that actually focused on a member of that culture rather than how the white people react to it. I thought Will Smith in the Wild Wild West was ridiculous because he probably would have been lynched for being upity at the time and definitely not working for the U.S. Government. Kind of like you still wish it still was huh? BET came about because MTV wouldn't play African-American videos, Black Miss America came about because African-Americans could not enter white pageants nor are African features found attractive until white people have them, Jolie Kardashian, and Black coaches Association because despite making up the majority of participants in viewed U.S. spectators you can still count them on a couple hands. I'm sure your thinking not qualified but W Bush and Matt Millen kills any all white people get there jobs because they are qualified argument. I know you worked harder at your nice suburban school with all the latest amenities while some BLACK kid that dodged bullets and used 10 year old text books actually got a break and got into a better college than you. But I'm sure when you walk into a office, hospital, restaurant or business and see all the minorities stealing YOUR jobs its so upsetting. Oh sorry hollywood hasn't made that fantasy film yet. P.S. Maybe if you spellchecked your college essay you might have been admitted to a better university.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dreamhunk

    Cleopatra sisters and brothers were found with black dna!fact! number 2 ancient Egyptians were said to be black! fact number 3 no one can say what Cleopatra really looks like with a shadow of doubt.

    sorry white people can't handle desert sands

    by the way I think that the movie 300 is very racist towards blacks! them Greeks love blacks and were educated by black people

    June 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • tinaru

      Nope you are 100% wrong. They did not find her sister Arsinoe nor her brothers. Neither Cleopatra nor Arsinoe nor any of their siblings had a black mother, their mother was Cleopatra Tryphaena, a Ptolemiac Queen and as white a Cleo and Arsinoe. Arsinoe's remains have not been found. Them Greeks did not love any blacks. Go read their own writings, they viewed black African people as inferior as Nothern Europeans.

      June 28, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      The discovery was made by Hilke Thuer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

      But remains of the queen's sister Princess Arsinoe, found in Ephesus, Turkey, indicate that her mother had an "African" skeleton. Queen Cleopatra was a descendant of Ptolemy, the Macedonian general who ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great.

      Experts have described the results as "a real sensation."

      December 10, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. Antonius

    Great responses on Cleopatra being of Hellenistic decent. There was Greek and Syrian blood in the Ptolemaic line, not African. Someone made an excellent point on how the Essence writer should do her homework before filing her complaints. Cleopatra was not considered beautiful, so I'm not sure I'd go with Jolie. But I certainly wouldn't give the role to an black woman because Cleopatra was simply not black. One of servants, Charmion, reportedly was, but not Cleo. Cleo had charm, wit, great conversation skills, and spoke 7 languages well enough to get from point A to point Z. These factors, according to historians, made her so beautiful.

    June 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Truth

    It been proved she was of mixed blood she didn't have pure white skin like she's always portrayed as.Its been proven she was not strictly of Greek descent.

    July 6, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • tinaru

      Nope you are 100% WRONG. It has NOT been proven that either Cleopatra or her sister were mixed given the fact the Ptolemies didn't intermix with native Egyptians never mind black Africans. Cleopatra, her siblings and mother were white Europeans of the Greek Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty. The ancient poet Horace (65-8 B.C.) wrote that Cleopatra was as white as alabaster and another ancient writer Lucan wrote of “Cleopatra's white breasts were revealed by the fabric of Sidon... close-woven by the shuttle of the Seres.” So many ancient sources that talk about Cleopatra being white and yet we still have idiots around here trying to incorrectly claim she was some 'black/mixed' woman. Ludicrous.

      July 7, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DaveGinOly

    The Egyptians were not black and paintings from ancient Egypt prove it. They depicted themselves AND sub-Saharan Africans (blacks, AKA "Nubians") in their art, and they DO NOT look alike. The Egyptians are brown-skinned with semitic features and the Nubians have obvious "black" features and are darker. And yes, Cleopatra was European. She was the last of the Ptolemys and was not descended from the Pharaohs, no matter what color they may have been. JHC, people, look it up. As for Dr. Ashton of Cambridge University, he is speculating and the historic record Inice one, tinaru) does not back him up. He's simply being "P.C." If he's not, he won't get the next grant he applies for.

    October 16, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Queen Cleopatra was a descendant of Ptolemy, the Macedonian general who ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great.

      But remains of the queen's sister Princess Arsinoe, found in Ephesus, Turkey, indicate that her mother had an "African" skeleton.

      Experts have described the results as "a real sensation."

      The discovery was made by Hilke Thuer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

      December 10, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. Linda

    Cleopatra was of GREEK ANCESTRY. Seriously people, get a grip. This reminds me of that one commentator who complained because no one in the movie '300' was black. THERE WERE NO BLACK GREEKS.

    October 18, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Egypt is where? Does the Sphinx look European? Are you trying to deny that Egypt was a black African place? Phwahahahahahahahaa Get an education, what is wrong with you? Who were the Black Pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty? lol

      December 10, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. BroadCasting

    What difference does color make? A really good actress should be able to transcend color. Isn't that what "acting" is supposed to be about.......being able to portray someone you are not?

    October 19, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kara

    Cleopatra was partially inbred and partially of undetermined(probably local) parentage, so she was actually neither black nor white, but in fact biracial. Given that Greeks had mixed with those form the turkish regions in earlier times, she would have ranged in colour fron the skin shade of emmanuelle chriqui, to that of alicia keys. Leonor varela who previously protrayed her, was about the right skin tone.
    However, it seems to me that we miss a more important point here which is that Cleopatra'a rise to prominence began in her teens, and her affair with Caesar at 21. Angelina jolie may or may not be too light skinned to play Cleopatra, but she is indisputably too old.
    That woman's never gonna pass for anything less than thirty, Ceasars gonna have to be played by a seventy year old.

    October 22, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
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