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Director Alex Proyas, Lionsgate apologize for lack of diversity on Gods of Egypt

Lionsgate’s Gods of Egypt doesn’t hit the theaters until February, but the studio and its director Alex Proyas have already had to apologize for its lack of diverse actors. While the film centers on Egyptians, the film — starring Gerard Butler (300, How to Train Your Dragon), Courtney Eaton (Mad Max: Fury Road), and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) — features a mostly white cast. After a surge of social media backlash, Lionsgate and Proyas have each made public statements in regards to the controversy.

“We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that casting decisions reflect the diversity and culture of the time periods portrayed,” said Lionsgate in a statement, as reported by Variety. “In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity, for which we sincerely apologize.”

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Proyas, known best for directing sci-fi films such as 2004’s Will Smith thriller I, Robot, 1994’s The Crow, and 1998’s Dark City, addressed the issues more specifically. “The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse,” he said. The Australian film director went on to apologize to any people offended by the studio’s decisions. Notably, the 52 year-old Proyas was born in Alexandria, Egypt.

Gods of Egypt film tells the tale of a commoner who partners with the god Horus to save the Egyptian empire from Set, the god of darkness. The film, based on a screenplay by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, was shot last year in Australia and on an estimated $140 million budget. The backlash comes just two years after Ridley Scott’s 2014 Egyptian film Exodus: Gods and Kings was similarly derided for having a mostly white cast.

Gods of Egypt is set to debut in theaters on February 26, 2016.