Whitest White People Ever Vying to Star in ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ Adaptation ‘Forty Thieves’
Hollywood has been mining the seminal ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ for ideas for the better part of a century, borrowing characters, details and story beats from the folklore collection and weaving them into all kinds of movies. And for good reason: many of the tales collected within it are astonishing, reflecting a rich, complex society that is completely different from our own. It's the perfect gateway to Islamic culture and often the first step for students of literature who have exhausted what the western world has to offer.
And now a bunch of white people are going to make a film version of its most famous story starring, you guessed it, a bunch of white people!
The Wrap reports that the ridiculously white Shawn Levy (who just helmed ‘This is Where I Leave You,’ which is in the running for Whitest Movie Ever) is on board to direct an adaptation of ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ over at 20th Century Fox. This “new take” will be titled “Forty Thieves” and the short list of actors for the lead role include the pasty Australian, Liam Hemsworth, the Aryan Brit, Dan Stevens, and the practically translucent American, Evan Peters. You know, three guys who would literally melt, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’-style, if they ever set foot in the desert.
That's not to say that Hafthor, the Guest and Quicksilver are bad actors. In fact, they range from pretty good to excellent, given the right circumstances and role. It's just pretty depressing that a movie adaptation of a story so closely tied to a specific culture will immediately gravitate toward a caucasian lead. Sure, ‘Forty Thieves’ will surely feature a bunch of Arabic actors in supporting roles (and you just know the main villain will have darker skin because Hollywood), but this is ‘Prince of Persia’ and ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ all over again.
The truth is that ‘Forty Thieves’ could be a lot of fun. The source material is ripe for cinematic adaptation and the apparent plan to make something in the vein of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sounds like the right choice. We're always going to be up for a fun adventure movie. However, both of those films took a number of chances with casting and tone. They work because they did something a little different, a little skewed. It would be amazing if Levy and his team realized that they could stand out from the pack and capture that rebellious spirit by, you know, casting an actor of Middle Eastern descent in a movie based on a story that came from the Middle East.
But that could be asking too much.