Laurence Fox slams Sam Mendes over 'incongruous' Sikh soldier in 1917

Laurence Fox slams Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes over ‘incongruous’ Sikh soldier in hit movie 1917 and says ‘forcing diversity on people’ is ‘institutionally racist’

  • Mr Fox says including Sikh soldier in war epic causes a ‘heightened awareness’
  • Claimed that seeing the character ‘diverted’ him ‘away from what the story is’
  • 1917 follows two young British soldiers as Germans pull back from Western front
  • Sikhs did fight in the First World War, but in their own regiments, not British ones 

Actor Laurence Fox has slammed Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes over an ‘incongruous’ Sikh soldier appearing in the movie 1917.

The Lewis star said that ‘forcing diversity on people’ is ‘institutionally racist’ after saying that the inclusion of Nabhaan Rizwan portraying Sepoy Jondalar was not in keeping with the film’s surroundings.

The epic film follows two young British soldiers tasked with traversing no-man’s land with a message as the Germans pull back from the Western Front. 

Asked if he would be offered ‘more, better roles’ if he espoused ‘different views’, Fox agrees that is the case, but adds: ‘What’s the point? You don’t want to go into a work environment and have someone thought-police you’. He is pictured speaking on Question Time

This time he’s taking aim not at an ethnicity lecturer from a provincial university, but Oscar-winner Sir Sam Mendes and, in particular, the film director’s World War I epic, 1917. Director Sam Mendes is pictured above on set

Mr Fox – who became embroiled in a row over ‘white privilege’ on Thursday’s Question Time – told writer James Delingpole’s podcast that the Sikh character distracted from what the story was about.

Although Sikhs did fight in the First World War alongside British forces, they did so in their own regiments as opposed to British ones. 

Mr Fox said: ‘It’s like, “There were Sikhs fighting in this war” . . . OK, you’re now diverting me away from what the story is. There is something institutionally racist about forcing diversity on people in that way.’ 

His criticism, reported by Sebastian Shakespeare, comes as the movie is up for 10 Oscars including Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture.

Despite these plaudits, Fox, 41, questions the credibility of the film’s storyline and what he describes as the ‘incongruous’ inclusion of a Sikh soldier, Sepoy Jondalar, played by Nabhaan Rizwan, in the ranks of British forces

The 41-year-old actor questioned the credibility of the storyline and said the casting  of Mr Rizwan caused ‘a very heightened awareness of the colour of someone’s skin’ because of ‘the oddness of the casting’. 

He praised the performance of Mr Rizwan himself, saying it was ‘great’, adding that the inclusion of a Sikh soldier in the ranks ‘didn’t bother me particularly’.

But he added that the inclusion ‘did sort of flick me out of what is essentially a one-shot film [because] it’s just incongruous with the story’.

Sikh soldiers were present at some of the conflict’s bloodiest battles, including Ypres and the Somme.  

Mr Fox was a guest panellist on Question Time last week when an audience member called him a ‘white, privileged male’ and he called her description of him racist. MailOnline has approached Sir Sam Mendes’s representatives for a comment. 


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