“It would absolutely be a wonderful day of celebration if, within a few decades, we have another Moses and he’s a North African or Middle Eastern actor — what a wonderful thing,” he told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s New York premiere, in response to the film’s controversial casting. “Ridley [Scott] is absolutely honest and blunt to a fault, and I think that people, rather than pointing fingers, should ask themselves, are they being supportive of North African and Middle Eastern filmmakers and actors? … The change will come from independent filmmaking, but audiences have to be there. Because once that happens, financiers of bigger and bigger budget films will say, ‘We can actually do business here.’ ”
See more Ridley Scott: His Life and Work
Also while on the red carpet at the Brooklyn Museum on Sunday night, Ben Mendelsohn acknowledged, “These types of criticisms are valid, that’s a discussion that’s not without its merits,” while John Turturro shrugged, “If the movie works, it works.” Joel Edgerton admitted of the topic making headlines, “Ironically, I think in a way, it actually draws more attention to the movie and probably makes more people want to check it out!”
How so? Expect a more complex Moses “who wasn’t supremely confident and was full of self-doubt,” Bale elaborated. “In other portrayals — fantastic as they are, they really are absolutely wonderful —there was a sense of inevitability that he would succeed and become a prophet. We wanted to take a look and be in the moment, with the man, and try to experience just, for instance, how terrifying it must have been to be in the presence of God.”
Additionally, “it’s a little less of Moses as the religious figure and more as a general, a liberation-type fighter,” explained Turturro, and producer Peter Chernin said Moses and Ramses’ relationship reads more as filial than commoner vs. royalty. “A lot of what made both of them who they were is that relationship with each other. It’s a much more dramatic story to the degree that they are really close brothers. A lot of the reason we wanted to tell this story again was to do so again with a psychological insight.”
Though the new take may not be an exact translation of the source text — “I don’t think you can make any religious adaptation without hackles being raised somewhere, that’s the nature of it,” said Mendelsohn — the cast defended that its essence remains the same.
“It’s the struggle for freedom — we should all be treating each other with absolute equality in life. You’re me, and I’m you; we’re both humans, we’re both flesh and bone,” Edgerton told THR. “And yet, we constantly find reasons to find point of difference in terms of culture, birthright, religion, and we use that as a foundation for bloodshed rather than synchronicity. That’s why this story’s amazing.”
Of Scott’s special effects, Edgerton loved the locusts, and Paul favored the parting of the Red Sea. Bale admitted, “I’m obsessed with tidal waves. I dream about them! I’d go see a film just because it’s got a tidal wave in it, I don’t care about the rest of it.”
Introduced by 20th Century Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos, Scott told the audience before the 3D screening, “This is a big film — it’s probably the biggest I’ve made, and it was surprisingly enjoyable! … Let the film speak for itself.”
Afterward, guests — including Gloria Steinem, Zac Posen, Kylie Minogue, Julianna Margulies, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Corbett, Jay Pharoah, Jennifer Morrison, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Sami Gayle, Nico Tortorella, and Stephen, Alaia and Hailey Baldwin — filed into the museum’s Egyptian art wing for a late dinner of short ribs, salmon and salad, served among displays of the film’s costumes and props.
Exodus: Gods and Kings hits theaters Dec. 12.