Watch: Gal Gadot criticised after taking Cleopatra role
Gal Gadot has defended her controversial casting as Cleopatra in an upcoming biopic, set to be helmed by Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.
The 35-year-old Israeli star was greeted with accusations of white-washing after the project was announced earlier this year.
Many suggested that an African actress should have been hired to portray the Egyptian queen, who was most famously played by Eizabeth Taylor in the monster-budgeted 1963 epic Cleopatra.
There is some disagreement over the background of the real Cleopatra VII, who was part of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Macedonian Greek rulers via her father but could have been of mixed heritage as her mother’s identity is unknown.
Gadot told BBC Arabic reporter Sam Asi that the production initially sought a Macedonian performer for the role.
"We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn't there, and I was very passionate about Cleopatra,” said the star.
Gadot’s own ancestry is Ashkenazi Jewish, with her family living in Eastern Europe before moving to Israel, where both of her parents — and later the actor herself — were born.
She added: “I have friends from across the globe, whether they're Muslims or Christian or Catholic or atheist or Buddhist, or Jewish of course.
“People are people, and with me I want to celebrate the legacy of Cleopatra and honour this amazing historic icon that I admire so much.
"You know, anybody can make this movie and anybody can go ahead and do it. I'm very passionate that I'm going to do my own too."
Though Cleopatra’s European heritage is well-known, the controversy around the unknown identity of her mother led many to suggest that Gadot is not the right casting choice.
Some critics referenced a 2009 BBC documentary which reconstructed Cleopatra’s face, showing her as someone of mixed heritage following the purported discovery of her sister’s tomb.
Read more: Reviews land for Wonder Woman 1984
Announcing the project in October, Gadot tweeted that she hopes to bring Cleopatra to the big screen “in a way she’s never been seen before”.
She added that the new Cleopatra will “tell her story for the first time through women's eyes, both behind and in front of the camera”.
Gadot can currently be seen in cinemas — though UK VOD is on the way in January — in Wonder Woman 1984, reprising her DC Comics superhero role.
Watch: Gadot reveals she never thought women could play superheroes as a kid