R21 And a British male playing Antony! And a British male playing Caesar (personally, I though Harrison walked off with the film)! And an American director!
And, I just re-watched one of my favourite crime dramas, "Jack Taylor", starring the once luscious Iaian Glen as the Irish ex-Garda getting into all sorts of trouble, and damme if the man isn't Irish: he's Scottish, for God's sake!!!!!
And damme if that wasn't English James Mason playing Brutus, English John Gielgud playing Cassius, and fucking American MARLON BRANDO playing Antony. in the not bad film version of Julius Caesar in 1953!!!!!
And how come no one told Bill S. that he had some nerve writing a play about ancient history that took place in Rome and Egypt, and there he was, a nobody from Stratford, England?!
There is here, you see, an underlying issue: for a very long time, the black community has been insisting that Cleopatra was black. She wasn't. It's not just that they chose a black actress: it's why they chose the black actress. They also chose a black actress to play Anne Boleyn last year. And Margaret of Anjou in "The Hollow Crown" series a few years ago (never mind that not only did Okonedo look ridiculous in the costumes, she was also 47 and looked more like poor 27 year old Tom Sturridge's mother than his young white French princess bride - yet, despite the absurd age difference and historical dissonance, the director said he never thought of anyone but Okonedo for the part).
No one dared to squawk, of course.
The British Elizabeth Taylor was actually American by then, AND a convert to Judaism via her marriage to Eddie Fisher, soon to be in the same ruins as the great library of Alexandria. Yah, adding insult to injury, Taylor was JEWISH! You are probably too young to know about the uproar in the Middle East to THAT! They refused to play the film there - not because she was a white or British, but because she was Jewish.
For what it's worth, they've also been trying (here in Britain, anyway), to claim that Beethoven was black because he used polyphonic rhythms occasionally. For years, the black classical music community (or a faction of them, anyway) have been insisting that this proves Beethoven was a 'bro; they've been promising for years to put up DNA proof that he was.
Of course, they never do, because there isn't any.
The problem is that rewriting history is dangerous. It's far more dangerous than putting a mega-star actress into a bloated Hollywood vehicle that no one ever was going to see for a history lesson. (Actually, the film was better than most thought it would be, mostly thanks to Harrison, but it hardly qualified for Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation".)
There is a difference in intent. Joseph Mankiewicz wasn't trying to prove that Cleopatra was white or to make a political point or to inform or enlighten. He was trying to make a great deal of money with a cheesy blockbuster, hoping desperately along the way he might insert some theatrical gravitas.
Yeah, no one complained about Taylor playing Cleo.
But no one complained about a statuesque black woman playing the historically white, petite Anne Boleyn, either. No one dared. Or about a 47 year old black woman playing a historical 20-year old white French princess. Or about Dev Patel playing David Copperfield. And now we have a black actress, Sophie Wilde, playing Sophia in a new filming of "Tom Jones" - regardless of the fact that the idea that she could have been is nothing short of ludicrous and undermines the entire gestalt of the novel.
The real racism at work is that you can no longer make an all white filming of anything, in a country that is still 79% white, even if doing anything else is just plain stupid.