Ridley Scott has responded to the apparent lack of ethnic diversity in his latest movie Exodus: Gods and Kings, saying that having a lead actor called "Mohammad so-and-so" wouldn't enable him to get a film financed. 

Christian BaleChrsitian Bale plays the historically middle eastern character Moses in Exodus

Scott insists that, had white actors not filled the major roles in the biblical epic, it would never have got off the ground financially. 

"I can't mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such," he told Variety.

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"I'm just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn't even come up."

Oscar-winning Christian Bale plays the Middle Eastern character Moses in Exodus, while the white Hollywood stars Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver play Egyptian Pharoah Rhamses and Queen Tuya respectively.

Joel EdgertonJoel Edgerton says he understands the criticism surrounding the cast in Exodus

The film has been coming in for criticism for months and Scott first addressed the issue last August, saying that Exodus would represent a "confluence of cultures".

"There are many different theories about the ethnicity of the Egyptian people and we had a lot of discussions about how to best represent the culture," he told Yahoo.

"We cast major actors from different ethnicities to reflect the diversity of culture, from Iranians to Spaniards to Arabs."

More: see heavily eye-linered Christian Bale in trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings

Edgerton said he understood the criticism, telling SBS, "It's not my job to make those decisions.I got asked to do a job and it would have been very hard to say no to that job. But I do say that I am sensitive to it and I do, I do understand and empathise with that position."

Exodus: Gods and Kings hits UK cinemas on 26 December.

Watch the Exodus: Gods and Kings trailer: