Gal Gadot defends Cleopatra casting after 'whitewashing' controversy

Israeli film star Gal Gadot has defended her plan to play Cleopatra following accusations of whitewashing.

Critics say an Arab or African actress should play the ancient Egyptian queen.

"First of all if you want to be true to the facts then Cleopatra was Macedonian," the Wonder Woman actress told BBC Arabic's Sam Asi.

"We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn't there, and I was very passionate about Cleopatra."

Controversy erupted in October after Gadot announced that she would star in and co-produce the film. The Guardian's Hanna Flint called it "a backwards step for Hollywood representation", while director Lexi Alexander said a black actress should be cast, citing a reconstruction of Cleopatra's face.

Gadot said: "I have friends from across the globe, whether they're Muslims or Christian or Catholic or atheist or Buddhist, or Jewish of course... People are people, and with me I want to celebrate the legacy of Cleopatra and honour this amazing historic icon that I admire so much."

She said other people were welcome to make their own films. "You know, anybody can make this movie and anybody can go ahead and do it. I'm very passionate that I'm going to do my own too."