While Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is best known for his role as Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones, he’ll be introducing himself to movie audiences as a possible new action hero in this weekend’s Gods of Egypt. While the movie looks to be a fantastical take on the ancient Egyptian gods, it’s received most of its press in recent months due to the controversy that has built around the fact that a movie that takes place in ancient Egypt is awfully white. However, the film's star doesn’t believe all the criticism is warranted. At least, not as far as he’s concerned.
In a recent interview with the Red Bulletin, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau makes it clear that he’s not happy with the criticism that the movie has received regarding the racial makeup of the casting, saying that all of it gets on his nerves. He then points out that several of the characters, including himself, are not technically Egyptian.
A lot of people are getting really worked up online about the fact that I’m a white actor. I’m not even playing an Egyptian; I’m an 8-foot-tall god who turns into a falcon. A part of me just wants to freak out, but then I think, ‘There’s nothing you can do about it.’ You can’t win in that sort of discussion.
Giving the Kingslayer the benefit of the doubt, he’s not wrong. Gods of Egypt differentiates the gods from the mortals, making the former giants with magic powers. They’re not Egyptians, they are an entirely separate race of beings. And if Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was the only white actor among the group of gods, that might be one thing. He’s not the problem. The cast as a whole is the problem. In addition to Coster-Waldau, the gods also consist of Gerard Butler, Geoffrey Rush, and Abbey Lee. And most concerningly, the problem extends beyond the god characters into the normal Egyptians. The film only has three mortal characters of any note. Two of the actors are Australian and the third is English.
It’s frustrating when your work gets criticized so it’s understandable that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau would be upset by everything. He had no control over his own race, and he didn’t cast the rest of the movie, so he feels like he’s being targeted for things that don’t concern him. He’s inadvertently in the center of a much larger issue of which his casting, not him, but his casting, is but a small part of it. It’s an issue that should be addressed, and it’s not personal, but we’re sure it can feel that way from his point of view.
Hopefully, the entire experience will be a lesson learned for all involved and we can all move forward with new perspectives. Gods of Egypt opens Friday.