Gal Gadot defends her casting as Cleopatra after 'whitewashing' backlash: 'People are people'

The actress reveals filmmakers had been unable to find a Macedonian actress to portray the Ancient Egyptian queen

FILE PHOTO: Gal Gadot attends the Vanity Fair Oscar party in Beverly Hills during the 92nd Academy Awards, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 9, 2020. Gadot stars in "Wonder Woman 1984" which is set for release on Dec. 25, 2020.  REUTERS/Danny Moloshok/File Photo
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It was a casting choice that spawned hundreds of headlines when it was announced in October, sparking claims of Hollywood "whitewashing" history.

But Gal Gadot has defended her upcoming portrayal of Cleopatra in a new interview, revealing filmmakers had tried to find an actress who shared the Ancient Egyptian queen's Macedonian heritage.

When her casting was revealed, many fans claimed the role should have been given to a star from North Africa, though Gadot noted the Egypt-born royal was of Greek-Macedonian descent.

"If you want to be true to the facts then Cleopatra was Macedonian," the actress told the BBC this week.

"We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn't there, and I was very passionate about Cleopatra."

The Israeli star, 35, will play the Queen of the Nile in a yet-to-be-titled Paramount Pictures film helmed by her Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins.

Gadot told the BBC she wanted to "celebrate the legacy of Cleopatra and honour this amazing historic icon that I admire so much".

"I have friends from across the globe, whether they're Muslims or Christian or Catholic or atheist or Buddhist, or Jewish of course... People are people," she said.

"But, you know, anybody can make this movie and anybody can go ahead and do it. I’m very passionate that I’m going to do my own, too.”

Cleopatra may have had some Persian ancestry but scholars almost unanimously agree that she did not have a drop of Egyptian blood in her.

The queen traced her family origins to Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great's generals, who founded the Ptolemic Kingdom in Egypt in 305BC after Alexander the Great's conquest.

To date, no Egyptian actress has played the role of the country's last Ptolemaic ruler in a blockbuster film, though she was famously immortalised on the big screen by Elizabeth Taylor in 1963's Cleopatra.

Gadot, who will also produce the new Cleopatra film, said at the time of her casting that she hoped to tell the queen's "story for the first time through women's eyes, both behind and in front of the camera".