Race Row As Black Stars Are Left out of Couples Retreat Film Poster

Miles Goslett, Daily Mail (London), November 15, 2009

The makers of a hit Hollywood film are at the centre of a race controversy after removing two black actors from a poster being used to promote it in Britain.

The American advert for Couples Retreat, a comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Kristin Davis, show all eight principal actors–six of whom are white and two black.

But the poster in Britain, where the film is on general release, omits actors Faizon Love and Kali Hawk.

Couples Retreat, about four couples who go on holiday together and receive therapy to improve their relationships, has taken more than £70 million at the box office worldwide since it opened last month.

A spokesman for makers Universal Pictures confirmed the poster had been changed to ‘simplify’ it for the UK and international market outside America. The studio said it regretted causing offence and has abandoned plans to use the revised poster in other countries.

Mail on Sunday film critic Jason Solomons said: ‘We don’t cater much for the black cinema-going audience in this country, which is a great shame, so it seems strange that when there are black stars in a major feature film this fact isn’t promoted. And, in terms of business decisions, this seems a pretty counter-productive one.’

Caspar Salmon, a 29-year-old translator from London who has seen the film, has complained to Universal. He said in a letter to the film company: ‘My hackles are up. I would like to ask what the thinking was behind this move to gaz-ump [Love and Hawk] from the promotional material.’

Vivienne Pattison, director of Mediawatch-UK, said: ‘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.’

Last month black British actress Thandie Newton spoke of racism in the film industry.

She said: ‘I’ve experienced racism in Hollywood, but not as conflict or in a threatening way, just the ignorance of people.’

A Universal spokesman said the revised advert aimed ‘to simplify the poster to actors who are most recognisable in international markets’.

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Above: the American version of the poster. Below: the British version, which leaves out photo of actors Faizon Love and Kali Hawk.

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