From The BVXSome African Americans are up in arms over Angelina Jolie being cast in the role of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra.* But this isn’t the first time Hollywood has put white actors in roles meant for minorities. Check out some of the biggest casting fails in the history of American cinema below.
To be fair there’s not enough evidence of Queen of the Nile’s ethnicity to prove that she would be considered black by today’s standards or even “white” for that matter, but Jolie’s casting begs the question “if you’re not sure why couldn’t a black woman play the role?” Here’s our short list of some of most suspect castings in film history.

Al Pacino As Tony Montana In “Scarface

Pacino’s Ethnicity: Italian American

Montana’s Ethnicity: Cuban

Synopsis: Pacino had everyone fooled as Tony Montana in the cult classic film “Scarface.” His accent was spot on, his movements were distinct and when you tell people that Pacino doesn’t have an ounce of Cuban blood in his body, you’ll often get the “GTFOH” look.

Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl in “A Mighty Heart”

Jolie’s Ethnicity: Czechoslovakian/German/French Canadian

Pearl’s Ethnicity: Dutch/Afro-Chinese-Cuban

Synopsis: There are a lot of identities between Pearl and Jolie but still no match. Yet, somehow Hollywood anointed Jolie as the most believable option to portray Pearl’s darker skinned features. Perhaps because nobody can figure out exactly what Jolie’s race is without numerous sub-headings, that Hollywood figured we’d miss the color mismatch. Ultimately, the real Pearl suggested that Jolie play her so we can’t be that mad.

James Caviezel as Jesus Christ in “Passion of the Christ”

Caviezel’s Ethnicity: Swiss/Irish/Slovak

Jesus’ Ethnicity: Racially Ambiguous (but with hair of wool and feet of brass, so we’ll guess he was a bit brown)

Synopsis: For years, Jesus has been portrayed as a Caucasian man who more often than not resembles a rocker from the grunge era. Maybe one day Morgan Freeman will play Jesus. Wishful thinking.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”

Ethnicity: Swedish/American

Dastan’s Ethnicity: Persian (duh)

Apparently, it doesn’t matter if the prince is Persian, because the actor isn’t. The name of the movie should have been the Prince of Sweden.

John Leguizamo as Luigi in “Super Mario Bros”

Leguizamo’s Ethnicity: Puerto Rican/Columbian

Luigi’s Ethnicity: Italian

Synopsis: Aside from it being a lousy adaptation of one of the most significant video games of all time, casting Leguizamo as Luigi was simply ridiculous. When was the last time you met a Puerto Rican plumber named Luigi? Seriously.

Continue Reading the other 5 @ The BVX…

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  • What happens when black people play roles meant for characters of different ethnicity?

    For Jolie’s role in the second movie mentioned, I believed she actually produced that film. She was the one that wanted that story told, and I’m sure the woman the movie was based off of okay’d this choice.

    I think there should be more attention paid to movies like The Last Airbender, when there was a clear basis to work from, but the characters don’t portray that at all. But all actors want to make money. I just hope the best ones are getting the roles.

    • isolde

      “What happens when black people play roles meant for characters of different ethnicity? ”

      That rarely happens. Colorblind casting is still rare. Roles for people of color are for the most part, few and far between. The Screen Actor’s Guild publishes statistics on race and minority represenation in film and television to affirm this, and the majority of actors hired are overwhelmingly white.

      “I think there should be more attention paid to movies like The Last Airbender, when there was a clear basis to work from, but the characters don’t portray that at all”

      Tell me about it. The three white kids (Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, and Jackson Rathbone, as Aang, Katara, and Sokka) cast as leads in Avatar: The Last Airbender didn’t make the list? I’m really surprised that there hasn’t been more coverage in urban/black media on the blatant yellowface going on in that film, since a lot of black people tend to be up in arms about blackface and the white washing of black characters.

      If you’re not up on the controversy, visit racebending.com.

  • chillchic

    LOL @ Leguizamo as Luigi. Most hispanics don’t seem to mind Scarface. They kind of gave him a “Latino pass”. The same way some blacks like to give out “hood” passes or whatever. Many Latins I know love that movie and accept him in the same way they accepted Natalie Wood, a white woman, as Maria in West Side Story.

  • The funny thing is that the more articles that go up about this the more ignorant it makes people look.

    There was nothing confusing or unknown about Cleopatra’s race. She was Greek. Her family was Greek. She was part of the Ptolemy dynasty. They bred between brother/sister and parent/child (gross) to keep their blood line intact: Greek brother has child with his Greek sister which is also his 1st cousin, which means they have a Greek child. There is nothing ambiguous about that.

  • Clnmike

    After giving this some more thought, I think it is in the best interest of everyone to be accurate as possible in casting people to match the ethnicity of the characters being portrayed.

    1- Portraying the proper ethnic group on screeen shows respect for other people’s cultures and a free mind.

    2- It helps to build the self esteem of other people to see themselves on screen and know they are a valued and respected members of society.

    3- It conditions other races not portrayed on the screen at the time to be accepting of other cultures.

    4- It counters the subliminal message that is sent out that white is the only acceptable image in the media.

    • bluefade

      Well Stated! I wish everyone in Hollywood would read your statement and bring it into reality. I enjoy seeing movies that feature actors from different ethnicities. Lately, I have been seeking out and watching foreign films to gain insight and a better understanding of other cultures. Black (American) film makers can also do a better job of representing all types of black people like Africans, Afro-Cubans, Hatians, Black Europeans and etc. I wish one day BET would play more music and make more television shows showing black people from all over the world so we can get a better understanding of who we are.