Angelina Jolie Criticized for Playing Cleopatra

Entertainment Jun. 17, 2010 AT 2:49PM
Angelina Jolie Criticized for Playing Cleopatra Credit: Lester Cohen/WireImage.com

Angelina Jolie is facing growing criticism for taking on the role of Cleopatra.

African American blogs and message boards are full of comments about how an actress of color should have played the part, as pointed out by CNN's Marquee blog.

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In an Essence.com story called "Another White Actress to Play Cleopatra?," the author writes, "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."

(Jolie, 35, adopted Zahara, 5, from Ethiopia, and gave birth to Shiloh, 3, in Namibia. She and Brad Pitt are also parents to Maddox, 8, Pax, 6, and twins Knox and Viv, 23 months.)

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The writer went on, "Were Vanessa Williams, Halle Berry and Thandie Newton unavailable for auditions that day? Why does Hollywood think it’s even slightly plausible to cast white women in roles that would be more sensible to cast a black actress for? Especially when that role is an African queen."

Clutchmagonline.com notes the Egyptian queen has always been played by white women in the past: Claudette Colbert in 1934, Vivien Leigh in 1945 and the most famous Cleopatra to date, Elizabeth Taylor in 1963.

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Stacy Schiff, who wrote the book on which the film is based, Cleopatra: A Life, threw her support behind Jolie in USA Today. "I think [Jolie] be perfect for it and I can see a possible Oscar in her future,” she said. "Physically, she’s got the perfect look." Producer Scott Rudin developed the adaptation "for and with Jolie."

Michael Pietsch, publisher of Little, Brown (which will release Schiff's book this November) told UsMagazine.com: "Angelina Jolie radiates grace and power, exactly the qualities that Stacy Schiff finds in her biography of the most intriguing ruler who ever lived."

This wouldn't be the first time Jolie has come under fire for playing a woman of color. She starred as Mariane Pearl, who is Afro-Cuban/Dutch, in 2007's A Mighty Heart.

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