Netflix Announces Denzel Washington Will Play Race Swapped Carthaginian General Hannibal In Upcoming Film From Antoine Fuqua

Denzel Washington. Photo Credit: Brian Bowen Smith

Streaming giant Netflix announced that director Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington are teaming up after the success of Equalizer 3 to create a film following the life of Carthaginian general Hannibal.

In a press release the company announced that Fuqua will be directing the untitled film written by screenwriter John Logan. Washington is the only actor attached to the film currently.

The logline reads, “Based on real-life warrior Hannibal, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest military commanders in history. The film covers the pivotal battles he led against the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War.”

The film is being made under Fuqua’s production company Hill District Media as part of a first-look deal he has with Netflix. Washington and Fuqua are both producers alongside Erik Olsen and Adam Goldworm. Jeremy Lott and Frank Moll are executive producers.

A marble bust, reputedly of Hannibal, originally found at the ancient city-state of Capua in Italy. Illustrations from Mommsen’s “Römische Geschichte” page 265, Hannibal. Photo Credit: © 1932 by Phaidon Verlag (Wien-Leipzig), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On social media, Netflix also posted, “Denzel Washington and Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Equalizer) are teaming up to tell the story of Hannibal – regarded as one of the greatest military commanders in history. The film will cover the pivotal battles he led against the Roman Republic. Coming soon to Netflix!”

Netflix on X

While the press release and social media post do not confirm that Washington will play Hannibal, Deadline reports that is indeed the case.

Justin Kroll and Mike Fleming Jr. state, “Netflix has attached Denzel Washington to play the ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal in an untitled epic drama that will reteam him with Antoine Fuqua for Netflix.”

Hannibal crossing the Rhône. Photo Credit: Henri-Paul Motte, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient History and Latin expert N.S. Gill believes Hannibal would not have been black given “The Carthaginians were Phoenicians, which means that they would conventionally be described as Semitic people. The term Semitic refers to a variety of people from the ancient Near East (e.g., Assyrians, Arabs, and Hebrews), which included parts of northern Africa.”

However, she notes that “Hannibal’s personal appearance is not described or shown in any indisputable form, so it is difficult to simply point to any direct evidence.”

Hannibal Crossing the Alps; detail from a fresco by Jacopo Ripanda, ca 1510, Palazzo dei Conservatori (Capitoline Museum), Rome. Photo Credit: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro

The decision to have Washington play Hannibal comes in the wake of the streaming service being lampooned for how it cast Adele James as Cleopatra in their Queen Cleopatra series from Executive Producer Jada Pinkett Smith.

The casting and depiction of Cleopatra was lampooned by viewers as well as Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Archaeology. The Ministry noted, “the appearance of the heroine in this body is a falsification of Egyptian history and a blatant historical misconception.”

They continued, “Especially that the film is classified as a documentary and not a drama work, which requires the people behind his industry to investigate accurately and base on historical and scientific facts to ensure that the history and civilizations of the peoples are not falsified.”

Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Archaeology responds to Netflix’s race-swapping of ‘Queen Cleopatra’

Not only does this announcement come after the backlash the streaming service received for Queen Cleopatra, but it also comes after a promise from Chairman of Netflix Film Scott Stuber to focus on quality rather than quantity.

He told Variety, “It’s about ‘Let’s make what we believe in.’ And let’s actually put forth a slate that we can stand behind and say, ‘This is the best version of a romantic comedy. This is the best version of a thriller. This is the best version of a drama.'”

One would assume Stuber believes this film would be the best version of a historical drama. It’s likely the film will be well made given the team of Fuqua and Washington is behind it, but it clearly won’t be portraying Hannibal Barca accurately.

Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning in The Equalizer 3 (2023)

What do you make of Netflix race-swapping Hannibal Barca with Denzel Washington?

NEXT: Netflix’s ‘Queen Cleopatra’ Director Condescendingly Dismisses Criticism Against Series’ Race-Swapping Of Actual History: “We Don’t Realize That Misogynoir Still Has An Effect On Us Today”