David Franzoni, the Oscar-Winning Screenwriter is all set to make a biopic on Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi, and it has also generated heaps of criticism on social media for wanting to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Rumi.
Gladiator Writer David Franzoni and Producer Stephen Joel Brown (Se7en,The Fujitive, A Perfect Murder) have signed on to the project. Both insist that the film will challenge Muslim stereotypes in western cinema, reports The Guardian.
According to The Guardian, David visited Istanbul to meet Rumi experts, so that the team could start shooting the film next year. Franzoni said, “There are a lot of reasons we’re making a product like this right now. I think it’s the world that needs to be spoken to; Rumi is hugely popular in the United States. I think it gives him a face and a story.”
Franzoni and Producer Stephen Joel Brown said they would like Leonardo DiCaprio to play Rumi, and Robert Downey Jr to star as Shams of Tabriz. “This is the level of casting that we’re talking about,” The Guardian reports Stephan as saying.
However, the news of a ‘white-washed Rumi’ didn’t go down too well with people who grew up admiring the poet’s work.
Since the Titanic star doesn’t look like he was born in Afghanistan, and Robert Downey Jr looks nothing like the non-white mystic, Shams, Twitter has blown up with anger and criticism of the casting.
Film and media critic, Imran Siddique was extremely vocal about the announcement of the cast.
He tweets, ‘Then they talk about “the level of casting” they have access to…which is like an open brag about how much power whiteness has in the world. The idea that Leo DiCaprio is the best actor in the world for every part ever in history is all about worshipping whiteness.’
He further adds, ‘These are the men in Hollywood who make the decisions around what sorts of stories get told, *how* they are told, and who gets to tell them. And yet, major Hollywood directors are defended for saying that their all-white films “aren’t about race.” Of course, they’re about race. This is what we mean when we say that centering whiteness in your story is a choice – it always carries a meaning.’
The makers, however, seem quite optimistic that they will have a positive impact on the audience since they are sharing the story of someone exceptional. They believe that “there’s something profoundly ‘gettable’ about Rumi. You get it. And not only do you get it but it involves you.”