A Film on Muslim Poet Rumi Is In the Works — And a White Actor Will Probably Play the Lead


Hollywood screenwriter Dave Franzoni has signed-on to pen the script for an upcoming biopic of Rumi, the 13th century Muslim poet, the Guardian reported on Monday. Franzoni and producer Stephen Joel Brown told the Guardian that, although it's "too early to begin casting," they hope that Leonardo DiCaprio will play Rumi.

Ah yes, who better to play Sufi poet Rumi — who was born in present-day Afghanistan and traveled through Baghdad and Mecca, eventually settling in what's now Turkey — than Leo DiCaprio, a white dude. Other famous white guy, Robert Downey Jr., is being eyed to play Shams of Tabriz, the Iranian spiritual advisor to Rumi. So, totally spot on casting!

Alastair Grant/AP

Franzoni acknowledged the importance of a Hollywood biopic about one of the most lauded Muslim poets in history, telling the Guardian "I think it's a world that needs to be spoken to; Rumi is hugely popular in the United States. I think it gives him a face and a story."

But that makes it all the more disappointing that Franzoni plans to whitewash the story by casting a white actor to play Rumi. 

And this isn't the only example of Hollywood casting white actors to play people of color — the February blockbuster flop Gods of Egypt 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.

The rumors that DiCaprio is already a favorite 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, emerged on Tuesday.

Ah, Hollywood: Where black people can't play fictional characters without backlash, but white people can play anyone!

Read more: J.K. Rowling Calls Out "Bunch Of Racists" For Inability to Accept Black Hermione Granger