I am as excited for this as I was about Noah.
Guillermo del Toro getting cast would be quite the coup.
Here’s a link to the trailer in question.
I agree that the casting for the film was totally inappropriate. With such fine actors like Idris Elba and Kerry Washington - to name just two - available for lead roles, casting as though it was made in the 1950s was not a smart choice at all.
Of course, this movie wasn’t made to be fair or honest - it was made to cater to a certain demographic, and their perception of the world. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the problem with casting that way. Doing so perpetuates false concepts.
I am kind of surprised that no role was found for Omar Sharif.
And I still think Tony Scott made better films than Ridley.
Was there any indication Sharif would have been interested?
The sheer solar exposure would probably drive anyone to either tan or burn, so they’d either turn brown or boiled-lobster-color depending on their capacity for pigmentation.
In all seriousness, though, anybody around who knows what the Egyptian upper crust of the era would have looked like? They certainly were fond enough of elaborate corpse preservation and we’ve dug up quite a few, so we must have some idea(likely skewed heavily toward the ones wealthy enough to get elaborate tombs; but that’s who we are talking about here)…
A Moses period piece would be well before some of the various well known shakeups in at least the upper levels (Achaemenids, Ptolemaic rulers, Romans, Sassanids, Arabs); but what would it have been before those?
Nothing about the suspected actual appearance of the time would require you to cast for it, even if possible; but I am curious what the ‘actual real history with evidence and stuff’ baseline would look like.
There is an interesting phenomena where the ruling class flaunts being paler than workers. Having darker skin is a sign of having to work outside. So it becomes a sign of prosperity to be pale.
This reversed in the 19th century when workers spent all day in factories and mines. The elites could spend time outdoors. Thus the roots of our modern western obsession with getting a tan. Many other cultures still covet being pale.
So while the movie may be grossly inaccurate in terms of race, it would be more surprising if there wasn’t some skin tone difference between the rulers and everyone else in ancient Egypt.
Vox wrote an article that covers this topic. There’s plenty of existing art from the period to show that egyptian royalty didn’t appear caucasian in tone.
From Egyptian art, we know that people were depicted with reddish, olive, or yellow skin tones. The Sphinx has been described as having Nubian or sub-Saharan features. And from literature, Greek writers like Herodotus and Aristotle referred to Egyptians as having dark skin.
(The article includes a picture of a bust of Nefertiti.)
So, the people of Egypt in ancient times in all cultural castes appeared either arab or black. The area, and exposure to elements had control over that.
Here, as an added bonus is a link to Mathilda’s Anthropology Blog. This page has “The faces of Ancient Egypt.” and contains over 400 images.
IIRC, I was reading a National Geographic where they did one of those facial reconstructions of a mummy to show what she would have looked like in life. I guess the skin color is stained/changed as part of the process, so the short answer is we don’t know what skin tone they had. They opted for a medium brown in the reconstruction, which makes sense that they had at least some tone to them living in that sunny of an environment.
Typically ancient Egyptians portrayed themselves as lighter than the Nubians to the south but darker than the Libyans to the West and the Asiatics to the East. The Book of Gates mural in the tomb of Seti I (father of Ramses II) is one noteworthy exampleillustration.
We do have a pretty good idea of how Ramses II himself looked as we still have his mummy. He had an aquiline nose and apparently was a ginger.
Not quite. That mummy was badly damaged by fungus shortly after it was unwrapped. Aquiline noses were prized - that was one of Nefertiti’s charms. However, hair color doesn’t mean his skin was pale. His hair was apparently naturally auburn, and the color it appears in the mummy is from dyeing and age.
Gaston Maspero, who unwrapped the mummy of Rameses II writes, “on the temples there are a few sparse hairs, but at the poll the hair is quite thick, forming smooth, straight locks about five centimeters in length. White at the time of death, and possibly auburn during life, they have been dyed a light red by the spices (henna) used in the embalm-ment…the moustache and beard are thin…The hairs are white, like those of the head and eyebrows…the skin is of earthy brown, splotched with black…the face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the living king.”
Microscopic inspection of the roots of Ramesses II’s hair proved that the king’s hair was originally red, which suggests that he came from a family of redheads. This has more than just cosmetic significance: in ancient Egypt people with red hair were associated with the god Seth, the slayer of Osiris, and the name of Ramesses II’s father, Seti I, means “follower of Seth.”
You may want to read up on redheads. Among other places, they can be found naturally in China and Papua New Guinea. The people sporting the recessive hair coloring gene in those places carry a different one from the one found in caucasians, and it doesn’t affect skin tone in the same way.
The image you posted from the Book of Gates is displaying race of the world, not class within Egypt. All those people represent races at the time of ancient Egypt. Here’s a better Wikilink. Also here’s an image direct from that page:
From left to right, it shows: a Libyian, a Nubian, an Asiatic, and an Egyptian
However, hair color doesn’t mean his skin was pale.
I didn’t say it did. Upon reflection, in the context of this discussion I probably should’ve clarified that.
The image you posted from the Book of Gates is displaying race of the world, not class within Egypt. All those people represent races at the time of ancient Egypt.
I thought I was pretty clear that it was comparing Egyptians to neighboring peoples, though re-emphasizing that doesn’t hurt. It might be more accurate to say “subject peoples” instead of “neighboring” as at the height of the New Kingdom Egypt controlled large chunks of Libya, Nubia and Syria.
Incidentally, I preferred the illustration I linked to because the one you link to makes the Libyans and Asiatics too pink for my taste.
Please! No spoilers! I want to be surprised about the plot elements of this story.
Your post still makes no sense in the context of defending (if it was) the choice to cast caucasian actors in lead roles as Egyptians. Here’s why:
As you noted, it was the Egyptians who did not depict themselves as the lightest-skinned people in the world at that time. They portrayed Libyans and Asiatic people with far lighter skin. So any people they kept as slaves from those places would be lighter than the Egyptians - not the other way around. Only Nubians would generally have darker skin, and they weren’t the only slaves kept. (Although many were.) Really, it was inappropriate to cast caucasians in the leads, and only dark-skinned people as slaves.
Slaves were generally prisoners of war or the result of trade, and could come from anywhere. (Not really “subjects” - those people held other places in society - like people living in conquered Roman city-states did.) So to represent the “slave class” as a being of a single skin is a false concept.
Both images are pulled from this original:
Neither are true to color. Here’s a link to the Theban Mapping Project.
Slightly OT, but at one point the Nubians conquered Egypt and installed a Nubian dynasty. So for a hundred years or so, the ruling dynasty was much darker in skin tone than the masses of people being ruled. I find this interesting because it is unusual. In many cultures throughout history (as noted in another comment), ruling families were portrayed as lighter-skinned than the masses (lighter not meaning European white, just paler). I wonder if all those Egyptan nobles started laying out in the sun to more closely resemble their new pharoahs.
What’s a Nubian?