Faizon Love is taking Universal Pictures to court for “whitewashing” him out of a movie poster more than a decade ago.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the comedian and actor is suing the studio that produced “Couples Retreat”, the 2009 ensemble comedy in which he appeared, alleging flat-out racism.
In his suit, reports THR, Love displays both the U.S. and international version of the “Couples Retreat” posters (below).
In the domestic version of the poster (at right), both he and co-star Kali Hawk — the only Black leads in the film — are listed in the credits and included in the photo. This isn’t the case for the international version, however; in that poster (left), neither actor is listed in the credits, not appear in the photo. All the other actors — all of whom are white — appear in both versions.
Love’s lawsuit claims he was “aghast” when he became aware of the differences in the posters.
“Universal Studios had no problem featuring Black actors in the comedic film,” states his complaint. “But when it came to publicizing the film to international audiences, Universal Studios chose to segregate the motion picture’s White and Black actors… Rather than enjoy maximum visibility with the film’s release, Mr. Love was demoted to the proverbial ‘Invisible Man,’ as penned by Ralph Ellison. Although Couples Retreat achieved a first-place box office opening weekend ranking, and went on a spectacular run that grossed more than $171 million worldwide, Universal Studios placed Mr. Love in the back seat of the ride enjoyed by his six White costars.”
As THR points out, the disparity between the two posters was noticed back in 2009, and “ignited a small fury online.” A studio spokesperson claimed the changes were to “simplify” the poster and said the studio would stop using the offending poster.
However, Love’s lawsuit contends there’s more to the story.
“Rather than react with adversity, Mr. Love opted for engagement and equanimity. He reached out to Universal Studios and endeavoured to engage constructively,” his lawsuit continues. “Universal Studios, …attempting to assuage Mr. Love and prevent his filing suit, promised both (i) the immediate cessation of the racist international poster, and (ii) prompt recompense to Mr. Love in the form of lucrative, career-making film roles. Universal Studios lied.”
Love claims that no roles were forthcoming; in addition, Love also claims that the film’s star, Vince Vaughn, “apparently went so far as to tell Mr. Love that making a big deal about his removal from the poster would not be good for his career at that time…”
According to THR, Universal declined to comment.