In the latest installment of #HollywoodSoWhite, a film director who is set to direct a movie about the life of Jalaluddin al-Rumi (commonly referred to as Rumi), the 13th century Persian Sufi mystic, poet, and scholar of Islam, wants to cast (of all people) Leonardo DiCaprio as Rumi. Just to be clear: Rumi was not white, and Leo DiCaprio is.
The director in question is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter, David Franzoni, who wrote the script for the massive blockbuster Gladiator starring Russel Crowe. Franzoni told The Guardian that Rumi is "like a Shakespeare." He added, "He's a character who has enormous talent and worth to his society and his people, and obviously resonates today. Those people are always worth exploring." He went on to say that along with one of the film's producers, Stephen Joel Brown, they hoped the film would challenge stereotypes surrounding Muslims.
Not only did Franzoni say that he wanted to cast DiCaprio as Franzoni, but also that he'd like to see Robert Downey Jr. (again: also white) in the role of Shams of Tabriz (again: also not white), adding that it was still too early in the process to begin casting, according to The Guardian.
A lot of people are thinking that a good way to challenge stereotypes would be to not have a white actor portray a person of color in a film, and have piped up on Twitter using #RumiWasntWhite to note how absurd and white-washing Franzoni's casting ideas for the Rumi film are:
Regarding the reasons for making a film about Rumi, Franzoni further told The Guardian, "There are a lot of reasons we’re making a product like this right now. I think it’s a 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."
But as at least one Twitter user pointed out, Rumi already has a story and a face, and that face does not look like DiCaprio's.
The Guardian reported that Franzoni's Rumi film will begin filming next year. Whether or not it will star Leo DiCaprio remains to be seen.
David Franzoni's publicist did not immediately reply to Complex's request for comment.