Aussie- and Canadian-born actresses join Spike TV’s Tut

tut-deen-bunburyWhile controversy continues to swirl around Exodus: Gods and Kings — with various Twitter users arguing that the Pharaohs and their relatives should have been played by black actors rather than actors of European and Palestinian descent — the casting directors on the Spike TV series Tut continue to go a somewhat different route. Having already cast Avan Jogia and Ben Kingsley — both of whom are half-Indian — as the Pharaoh Tutankhamun and his grand vizier, the producers have now cast Sibylla Deen, an Australian who is half-English and half-Pakistani, as Tutankhamun’s sister (and wife) Anke. Deadline also reports that Kylie Bunbury, daughter of the Guyanese-Canadian soccer star Alex Bunbury and his Polish-Swedish-American wife Kristi Novak, is playing someone named Suhad.

Exodus news round-up: a set visit, a casting controversy, and who exactly is Ben Mendelsohn playing?

2014-08-04 14.06.09The current issue of Empire magazine has a report from the set of Exodus: Gods and Kings, and while it doesn’t have all that much new information, it does include a few new pictures and a few new details.

For one thing, it confirms that the giant face we saw in the first official photo from the film is meant to be an image of Ramses II, the Pharaoh played by Joel Edgerton — and it adds the detail that this monument is part of a massive new city being built by the Hebrews called Pi-Ramses. So it looks like this film will follow the scholarly convention of equating the biblical city “Rameses”, mentioned in Exodus 1, with the historical Pi-Ramesses.

The article also mentions that the film will feature “seven — count ’em! — plagues and natural disasters”. Only seven? There are ten in the Bible, though this needn’t be an inaccuracy on the film’s part. If memory serves, The Ten Commandments (1956) really only showed three — the water turning to blood, the hailstorm and the death of the firstborn — but it alluded to the others in its dialogue. So it’s certainly possible that Exodus might show “only” seven but allow for the other three somehow.

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The next Pharaoh… will come from Vancouver

avanjogiaWe have a King Tut! The Hollywood Reporter says Avan Jogia, a 22-year-old born in my native Vancouver, has been cast as the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, who died when he was about 18, in the Spike TV miniseries Tut. He joins the previously announced Ben Kingsley, who will play Tutankhamun’s grand vizier. Interestingly, both of these actors are half-British and half-Indian — and Reece Ritchie, who played the Pharaoh in the recently cancelled Hieroglyph, is a half-English, half-South African actor who has often played Indian characters himself, in films and TV shows like The Lovely Bones, All in Good Time and White Heat. Apparently the casting agents on these shows want to move away from the Caucasian casting that has proved so controversial on films like Exodus: Gods and Kings (coming December 12) and Gods of Egypt (coming in 2016), but they also aren’t inclined to follow the Afrocentrist line which holds that just because Egypt is on the African continent, it therefore follows that the ancient Egyptians must have been just as dark-skinned as the Nubians or Ethiopians, etc. The solution, it seems, has been to cast actors who fall somewhere between the two extremes, pigmentation-wise.

He’s Pharaoh! He’s Moses! He’s somebody else entirely! Ben Kingsley talks Exodus, appears in Night at the Museum trailer

vlcsnap-2014-07-31-22h09m42s196Two movies. Same studio. Coming out only a week apart. Both of them have something to do with ancient Egypt. And both of them star Ben Kingsley in a prominent supporting role.

One of those movies is Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third in the series about a bunch of museum exhibits that come to life at night. The series already has a Pharaoh — Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek), who appears in all three films — but Kingsley joins the series as yet another Pharaoh in this newest film.

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Ben Kingsley returns to ancient Egypt — again! — in Tut

Ben Kingsley can’t get enough of ancient Egypt, it seems. First he starred in the 1995 TV-movies Joseph and Moses, playing Potiphar and Moses respectively. Soon we will see him play a Pharaoh in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and the father of Joshua in Exodus: Gods and Kings (both coming in December). And now, as of today, the word on the street is that Kingsley will have a major part in the Spike TV miniseries Tut. Kingsley, who is 70, definitely won’t be playing the titular Pharaoh Tutankhamun, who died when he was about 18. Instead, he will play “Ay, the grand vizier to King Tutankhamun, who wields tremendous power and influence as the top advisor to the young Egyptian ruler.” The miniseries will shoot in Morocco and Canada (!) in the fall, and will air sometime next year.

Are Exodus: Gods and Kings — and other Moses movies — picking on Ramses II unfairly?

Donna Dickens has an amusing post up at Hitfix in which she begs Hollywood to “please stop character assassinating Ramses II”.

The Bible, you see, never says precisely who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, but most big-screen versions of the story — from The Ten Commandments to The Prince of Egypt to Ridley Scott’s upcoming Exodus: Gods and Kings — have assumed it was Ramses II, one of the most powerful Pharaohs who ever lived.

There are reasons for this, which I’ll get to in a moment, but Dickens proposes an alternative theory. Instead of dating the Exodus to the time of Ramses, who lived in the 13th century BC, she proposes dating it to the time of Thutmose III, an accomplished Pharaoh in his own right who ruled in the 15th century BC.

Why so much earlier? Partly because I Kings 6:1 tells us that Solomon began building the Temple 480 years after the Israelites came out of Egypt, and that he did this during the fourth year of his own reign. So Solomon began his reign 476 years after the Exodus, and if you date the beginning of Solomon’s reign to about 970 BC, as Dickens apparently does, then all you have to do is add 476 years and — voila! — the Exodus took place in 1446 BC, right in the middle of Thutmose’s reign.

I used to subscribe to this theory, or at least a version of it, myself.

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