Kali Hawk Hints to Movieline Why the Couples Retreat Poster Controversy May Be Overblown
The marketing department at Universal is probably ready to take the rest of their forgettable year off after its second ethics controversy in a week. Just days after Uni was caught fabricating news stories for The Fourth Kind, critics and moviegoers in the UK (or at least the ones the Daily Mail located) are objecting to the studio's campaign for Couples Retreat, one of 2009's rare Universal hits that nevertheless required some adaptation for foreign markets. Or so the studio thought -- right before it pulled African-American co-stars Faizon Love and Kali Hawk off the British one-sheet. Click through for a look at both posters and a few reasons -- including an explanation to Movieline from Hawk herself -- why this probably isn't quite the controversy it looks like.
The reactions to the UK's all-white posters have ranged from angry media critics ("I think this was an ill-conceived move. We celebrate diversity in Britain and we could have coped with seeing the same poster used in America.") to civilian letter-writing campaigns. "My hackles are up," one viewer told the Mail. "I would like to ask what the thinking was behind this move to gaz-ump [Love and Hawk] from the promotional material." Gaz-ump! Pip pip!
While a Universal rep explained that its intention was "to simplify the poster to actors who are most recognisable in international markets," acknowledged the indelicacy of its honky-rific European campaign under the circumstances. But did it have to apologize? After all, Hawk had a pretty rational explanation of the film's poster politics when she spoke last month to Movieline:
[Y]ou know how you see on the poster, how I'm on it and my name is big? For most people, that billing was in their contract. My character started out so small and I had such a small agent at the time that I didn't really have any negotiating power. After I got the movie and they saw what I could do, Vince [Vaughn] would actually write more scenes for me to do while we were shooting it, so getting on the poster and getting that star billing, that came later and that came from Vince, one of the producers on it.
See? No racism expressed or implied. That said, the American luggage lobby is furious to see that Malin Ackerman's endorsement of waterproof rolling suitcases was shielded from American audiences. Another studio apology is no doubt forthcoming.
· Race row as black stars are left out of Couples Retreat film poster [Mail Online via Vulture]