1. Julia Roberts tops the list by no fault of her own. Well, let’s hope.
Howard said of Harriet, a film 26 years in the making, that he had wanted to turn Tubman’s life into an action-adventure movie since studying her work in college. “The climate in Hollywood, however, was very different back then,” he said of the 1990s. “I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.’” “When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t be Harriet, the executive responded, ‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference,’” Howard added.
2. Remember when actor Angelina Jolie played an Afro-Cuban journalist?
That’s right: The 2007 film A Mighty Heart earns Jolie a spot on the list for her portrayal of Mariane Pearl, a journalist who was 6 months pregnant when her husband, Wall Street Journal bureau chief Daniel Pearl, was killed after he was abducted in Pakistan.
3. Egyptian deities were whitewashed just three years ago.
The 2016 film Gods of Egypt featured a nearly all-white cast in its portrayal of Egyptian deities. To be fair, the producers of multiple recent films based on biblical stories apparently thought nearly all-white was alright, from the 2004 drama The Passion of the Christ to the 2014 film Exodus: Gods and Kings. Gods of Egypt director Alex Proyas did at least offer an apology. “The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse,” Proyas said. “I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we made.”
4. Director Sofia Coppola edited out the black background of a biracial character in The Beguiled.
And when she did, Coppola offered more of a defense than an apology when she was met with criticism regarding the 2017 remake. The movie featured actor Kirsten Dunst in the role of Edwina, who in the Thomas Cullinan novel on which the movie is based is a wealthy biracial teen seduced by an injured Union soldier.
“A lot of slaves had left at that time,” Coppola told BuzzFeed News in an interview. She later added, “I feel like you can’t show everyone’s perspective in a story.”
5. Being the King of Pop apparently doesn’t protect you from thoughtless casting.
White British actor Joseph Fiennes was picked to play pop icon Michael Jackson in a “9/11 road trip comedy,” The Guardian reported in January of 2016. That casting choice was made for the 2016 short-form British film Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon. It’s based on a road trip Jackson reportedly took with actress Elizabeth Taylor and actor Marlon Brando from New York City to Los Angeles after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.