When pitching the forthcoming Marvel series Moon Knight to Disney, director Mohamed Diab (Cairo 678, Amira) sought to focus heavily on Egypt and its role within the series. He not only wanted to make it as “authentic as possible” for the lore of the title character, but he also wished right some of the wrongs from previous Hollywood projects—namely, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984.
“In my pitch, there was a big part about Egypt, and how inauthentically it has been portrayed throughout Hollywood’s history,” Diab tells SFX Magazine. “It’s always exotic—we call it orientalism. It dehumanizes us. We are always naked, we are always sexy, we are always bad, we are always over the top.”
In Wonder Woman 1984, Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor take off to “Cairo,” where the second large action scene of the film takes place. At one point, the two talk to a sheik, and Wonder Woman even gets the chance to heroically save two Egyptian children who just happen to be playing soccer in the desert. Diab knocks the film for playing into typical Hollywood tropes, and for inaccurately portraying cities in Egypt.
“You never see Cairo. You always see Jordan shot for Cairo, Morocco shot for Cairo, sometimes Spain shot for Cairo. This really angers us,” Diab says. “I remember seeing Wonder Woman 1984 and there was a big sequence in Egypt and it was a disgrace for us. You had a sheik—that doesn’t make any sense to us. Egypt looked like a country from the Middle Ages. It looked like the desert.”
Egyptian mythology plays a large role in Moon Knight as the titular character comes into his powers thanks to the Egyptian moon god Khonshu. Diab directed four episodes of the first season, and gives props to the comic books for their more accurate portrayals of Egypt.
“[It’s] part of the show because it’s part of the comic book. It’s part of how he gets his powers. It’s ingrained in it.” Diab explains. “There was definitely room to play [in Moon Knight] but keep it as authentic as possible, in the realm of being fantastical. Even in the original comic books they did a great job of researching and trying to make Egypt authentic.”
Moon Knight, starring Oscar Isaac, premieres on Disney+ on March 30.