Lionsgate Vows to Recall Italy’s ’12 Years a Slave’ Poster Focusing on Brad Pitt

Lionsgate Vows Recall Italy's '12 Years

White actors at the centerpiece of slave drama in country

Calling the posters unauthorized, Lionsgate is vowing to recall the Italian marketing material for “12 Years a Slave,” which puts the focus on Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender at the expense of star Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Italian distributor BIM is releasing the film in the region and worked with marketing company Fanatical About Cinema in making the posters, which have caused an uproar on the Internet.

Execs at BIM could not be reached for comment. But a spokesman for Lionsgate, whose Summit label is handling the film overseas, said “The ’12 Years a Slave’ theatrical posters featuring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender that were recently released in Italy were unauthorized and were not approved by any of the producers or licensors of the film. Summit Entertainment, acting as exclusive sales agent for the licensors, is investigating and taking immediate action to stop the distribution of any unauthorized posters and to have those posters currently in the marketplace recalled.”

Pitt, who produced the film, has a minor role in “12 Years a Slave” but is one of the biggest stars in the world so the decision to promote him could easily be a financial one. However, it’s hard to overlook the implications of the fact that other materials in Italy favor another white actor in a supporting role, Fassbender, as opposed to Ejiofor, the black actor who appears in virtually every scene in the film.

Yesterday, the Tumblr blog “Carefree Black Girl” surfaced an Italian poster for the acclaimed Steve McQueen-directed drama, which prominently displays Brad Pitt’s face on top of a smaller image of a Ejiofor.

“I’ve been following the press for months and I can’t wait to watch it but REALLY? I don’t remember Brad Pitt being the protagonist of the film or having such a pivotal role in the story to stay in the middle of the poster,” the blogger wrote.  “I sure don’t know anything about marketing strategy to appeal audiences but isn’t this going too far?”

“12 Years a Slave,” nominated for seven Golden Globes, tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a New York-born free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841.

Fox Searchlight is distributing the film in the U.S. and Canada. Here’s the U.S. version of the poster:

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  1. Pietro says:

    So a reasonable marketing decision is called racist since the lead actor – mr. No-one in Italy- happens to be black. You are so racist that see racism everywhere, even where there is none.
    If the main actor was Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne or Eddie Murphy – to name few who people love in Italy – they would have gotten a huge poster, since their name only would have sold any movie.

    But to prove that racism is in the eye of the beholder (yeah, it is), just look for Italian posters and marketing campaign for any other movie where there is a main black character. Was Laurence Fishburne shrinken or removed in the Matrix poster? NOPE! Jeo Pantoliano was… OMG, Italians are racist against white people, let’s write a blog post and let’s spit rage on them!! Those racist!! :-D – the poster of Matrix in Italy.

  2. Brayden says:

    Generally I do not learn article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to try and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, very great article.

  3. Dasha says:

    Despite the poster complications, “12 Years a Slave” is a wonderful movie. If you didn’t like it, try watching “Dango Unchained”.

  4. Gwapo says:

    Love how you throw Obama in there…..nice job! How miserable an existence you must live. Denial and rage must be your next door neighbors, living in a world where the most powerful man on earth is………wait for it………..BLACK! I think you husband is sitting on the couch, scratching his scrotum waiting for you to bring his beer back.

  5. Tomothy Turnstone says:

    …but If you portray a black man as a slave, that would be racist.

  6. Ned says:

    Italy is a racist country, period.

  7. Dale Hopson says:

    Sharpton and Jackson and Obama?
    They have NOTHING to do with this film!
    Some folks are so blind… sadly!

  8. Kess says:

    Pitt is your money, of course theyre going to put him on top.

  9. Hmmmm. . .I’m trying to get folks into my theater. Am I going to promote Chiwetel Ejiofor, one of the worst actors EVER that nobody knows, or am I going to promote Brad Pitt.

    god people are stupid.

    • Gwapo says:

      Bet you cant name one other movie he has ever been in…nor have you seen the current movie. yet your own ignorance/ arrogance allows you to proclaim him one of the worst actors ever! He has been acclaimed in theater work for years. See where I am going here? Ofcourse you dont because your subconscious bigotry blinds you to the obvious, which I will not bother to spell out for you, because you are not deserving of being enlightened. Continue on secure in your ignorance.

    • SamDennis says:

      Exactly what are “god people…”?

  10. RobX says:

    You would think people would be more interested in as many people seeing such a film as possible, rather than the superficialities of how it is marketed. People who are waiting to see it, know what its about and are already going to see it regardless of the poster. People who probably wouldn’t see it any way may go if they see a familiar star is in it. The people a story like this may reach are the very people who may or may not chose to see it based on this poster versus the American version. But I guess people need to temporarily quench their thirst for being offended before the fire of perpetual outrage consumes them.

    I don’t remember an uproar over the DJango Unchained poster that featured only Dicaprio.

    This is the Age of the Injustice Collectors.

  11. leroy says:

    In my experience many Italians are openly quite racist. They throw bananas at black footballers, even the ones who are playing for them, even old Berlusconi has said some outrageous things. I think a major factor is that Italy is the main migration route from Africa into the EU, many Italians have a very bad feeling of being obliged by the EU to provide social services for destitute migrants and asylum seekers, often rescuing them from unsafe vessels in the Med and providing legal services and accommodation until their case is heard by the EU.

    Rome is full of impoverished black people, many undocumented and unable to speak Italian, often turning to petty crime and street hustle to earn a living. I don’t imagine a movie with a black guy running across the poster would sell many tickets in Italy. Either that or they love Brad Pitt.

  12. Frank LeMoyne says:

    Collectors’ items!

  13. I really care about this. Only not much.

  14. Lol. Dumb and silly reasoning. I’m italian and actors like Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, are always featured prominently on movie posters here. I never EVER heard of this ‘Chiwetel Ejiofor’ is, but i know pretty well both Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender.
    Even the latter is wildly popular nowadays in Italy thanks to X-Men and Prometheus.
    It’s not a matter of racism, it’s just a matter of marketing. It’s not unusual to see a famous actor that has a very small role or even a little appearence being marketed as a major actor in the movie posters and trailers.
    People here is nuts for afroamerican stars. If the movie featured Will Smith in a small role and mr. John Doe, the caucasian nobody as the lead actor, it would have been the other way around.

  15. azgirl9000 says:

    They shouldn’t even mention Brad Pitt’s name because he is white. I hope they will only advertise it as starring that famous black actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Hearing that he is in the movie will result in packed theatres.

  16. Some of this reeks of hypocrisy. Brad Pitt is only in the minor role so more people will want to go see it, yet now they are getting angry he is on the poster. What did they expect? He’s one of the biggest stars in the world. They’ve been doing this sort of thing forever. John Lennon had a minor role in “How I Won the War” yet he was the only one on the poster and it said he starred in the film. His role was minor.

  17. Carl White says:

    Of course it is BECAUSE of racism but I do not think the marketing is in itself racism, big pictures of white people on a movie poster does not mean or even imply anyone is better than anyone else. It means someone is doing what they got to do to make a buck and I do not blame the people marketing the film in Italy.
    If you have ever spent time in Italy, in general, of course not everyone, it is a pretty racist country.
    If I am a salesperson and I am told I need to go in to a room full of racist Eskimos and sell them ice, I am putting on my truckers hat and cowboy boots and talking in a southern accent, my selling them something does not mean I agree with their point of view.
    In case you have not noticed, or read the comments on this message board, we live in a pretty racist world, as long as people have different skin colors people will be racist because no matter what you do you will never get rid of the never ending supply of stupid and ignorant people.
    But even if you make everyone have the same skin color people will ALWAYS find something different about other people (money, status, looks, weight, country of birth, smell, clothes, hair length, sexuality, height, music taste, education and so on and so on) to not like about them that will make them feel that they are better than them.
    That is what stupid and ignorant people do, find imaginary problems with other people to make themselves feel better about themselves, that is part of being human unfortunately.
    You know who I hate? Stupid and ignorant people. There, I said it, I discriminate against people based on their IQ and level of ignorance. Call me a snob, or something that ends with an ist. (Intelligencist?) I am human.
    Now everyone should just get over themselves (especially ChuckleberryFinn, come on, kneegows, you can not even spell your racist insults correctly).

    • SamDennis says:

      Everything ‘racial’ is NOT always ‘racism’… most people seem to automatically assume racism just because one person is of a different race from another. Get over yourselves!

    • Lol. Dumb and silly reasoning. I’m italian and actors like Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, are always featured prominently on movie posters here. I never EVER heard of this ‘Chiwetel Ejiofor’ is, but i know pretty well both Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender.
      Even the latter is wildly popular nowadays in Italy thanks to X-Men and Prometheus.
      It’s not a matter of racism, it’s just a matter of marketing. It’s not unusual to see a famous actor that has a very small role or even a little appearence being marketed as a major actor in the movie posters and trailers.
      People here is nuts for afroamerican stars. If the movie featured Will Smith in a small role and mr. John Doe, the caucasian nobody as the lead actor, it would have been the other way around.

      • Ron Maiga says:

        Sorry mate but italians are racists no matter what you say. The whole world knows it and even children from the deepest of Africa and Asia talk about it.

    • jamman says:

      Of course it is racism, because when they market the NBA in Italy, all the posters are of David Lee and Manu Ginobli. Oh wait….no they aren’t. They are the PEOPLE WHO ARE STARS.

  18. Markdpez says:

    Brad brings in the box, everything else is….O nevermind.

  19. Frank M says:

    Much ado about nothing…

  20. ChuckleberryFinn says:

    I am really over kneegows and their never ending lust for coverage. If it were up to me, I would have never let them into this country. As Charles Darwin has so eloquently written, they have had the riches of the world at their feet for all of eternity and have done nothing more that produced huts of mud and stone. Screw ‘Em

  21. Theodore Pride says:

    Seems rather obvious this was a racist decision to cater to Italian audiences. Pitt is a star, but the other guy? And I personally find the poster with Ejiofor much more compelling. Star-based posters are so cliche and boring and tell you nothing about the movie. Brad Pitt isn’t the slave here, though a movie about the Ottoman Turks or Barbary pirates could provide us with that.

    • Also, “the other guy” Michael Fassbender may not be that famous yet in the US, but here in Italy he is largely known for his roles on X-Men and Prometheus. Just because an actor isn’t a big star in USA it doesn’t mean he isn’t in a foreign country as well.

    • Lol. Dumb and silly reasoning. I’m italian and actors like Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, are always featured prominently on movie posters here. I never EVER heard of this ‘Chiwetel Ejiofor’ is, but i know pretty well both Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender.
      Even the latter is wildly popular nowadays in Italy thanks to X-Men and Prometheus.
      It’s not a matter of racism, it’s just a matter of marketing. It’s not unusual to see a famous actor that has a very small role or even a little appearence being marketed as a major actor in the movie posters and trailers.
      People here is nuts for afroamerican stars. If the movie featured Will Smith in a small role and mr. John Doe, the caucasian nobody as the lead actor, it would have been the other way around.

  22. GT says:

    This thread is so sad..First, for the people claiming that having Brad Pitt super imposed was for a marketing benefit, ok I can see that…How do you explain Michael Fassbender? His fame is just starting to grow and XMen has always been more ensemble focused than on just one actor. Second, it is extremely dishonest if this is how they chose to market this movie because Pitt and Fassbender do not come close to Ejiofors screen time so once again that is a perfectly fine reason to be upset. Third, by minimizing Ejiofor, you are minimizing Solomon Northrup and consequently the movies message which understandably wouldn’t sit well with the director. Last, Ejiofor is just as accomplished if not more so than Fassbender..He has been in critically acclaimed movies as well as blockbusters so even if you don’t know the name, you would probably recognize his face. If that fails, check IMDB for goodness sake. In short, this is a great movie that everyone should see and its unfortunate we are discussing the posters rather than the phenomenonal movie itself

    • The problem is that you are totally missing a point. This is ITALY you are writing about.
      Maybe in the US Michael Fassbender isn’t that popular yet, but here (i live in Italy) he is hugely known due to his roles in X-Men and Prometheus. That Ejiofor guy, on the other hand, is a complete mr. Nobody. American actors of african descent like Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington are hugely popular here, i assure you. If the lead was mr. white caucasian nobody John Doe and there was Will Smith in a minor role, it would be the other way around.

    • You don’t believe Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender’s image is for marketing purposes? Get a grip on reality! The studios and everyone involved will stoop to do everything it takes to get as many people to buy a ticket as possible. How else can they afford to pay these overpaid actors.

      • GT says:

        How is Michael Fassbender more marketable though? Like I said Brad Pitt is a movie star, Fassbender hasn’t reached that level though

  23. Just Sayin says:

    Of course they’d focus on Brad Pitt. That’s what sells movies. Sheeeeesh???

  24. beaufort9 says:

    These are Italian movie posters touting its stars. Nothing racist about it.

  25. Gwapo says:

    No one is upset, just pointing out the irony of a slave movie with a story that revolves around the main character who is black, but is being marketed using a white character who has less than 8 minutes in an almost three hour movie. Albeit the white character has one of the most popular faces in the world. The injustice is that most white people need to see a white centric character to be mildly interested in a story revolving around black characters. As is expected because most of you are too busy managing your schedule at your jobs at Walmart you miss the irony….nor do you care. You only see another opportunity to blame another ethnicity for your own miserable lives! The world is changing folks you may as well try to educate yourselves to keep up with it and stop fighting windmills.

  26. Chiwetel Ejiofor? He needs to change his name.

  27. Logical1 says:

    The real reason is that nobody ever heard of this movie let alone Chiwetel Ejiofor. It needs all the help it can get from the bigger name actors on the posters.

  28. BYODB says:

    Well you see, in Italy that don’t give a flying dutchman about American’s sensitivity issues with Africans. They correctly figured that putting Brad Pitt on the poster would make them boat loads of cash, arguably the sole reason they are showing a film at all.

    It’s no secret that foreign advertising is ENTIRELY DIFFERENT than American advertising. So why is anyone in an uproar about this poster across the Atlantic Ocean in a place that used every kind of slave imaginable. Do you hear Italians in an uproar because there’s not a Christian on the front of the poster in a slavery film? No, no you do not.

    (Clearly, a reference to the fact that ancient Rome was an equal opportunity enslaver.)

  29. Freeland_Dave says:

    Why must we classify people according to their ethnicity, social stature and countries of national origin?

  30. welarmedlamb says:

    I think white people should stop making movies about blacks….let blacks do their own movies

  31. billyray523 says:

    Just plain old racism as usual.
    No surprise to see here, folks !!!
    Keep moving, keep moving !!!

  32. Rick says:

    I’ve seen this movie (it is a great movie btw) and Pitt is onscreen for a total of _maybe_ five minutes or so.

  33. Pete says:

    Maybe the folks in Italy don’t know so much about slavery as it happened in another country. The poster uses known stars to market the film. Lets say there’s a movie about the Japanese atrocities in China during world war 2 – are you going to see it with a picture of an unknown Chinese actor, or are you more apt to see it if Jackie Chan is on the poster? Gawwww focus on real problems people.

    • Beth White says:

      You have to be fairly ignorant to not know of Italy’s historical slavery.The Roman Colosseum was built as an arena in which to fight their slaves who came from the four corners of the world…

  34. Michael Anthony says:

    There are so many ignorant and racist comments on this article. And then there’s those who think they are bring funny. Sorry, but your humor.

    I think these ignorant racists, including those in love with the bigoted Robertson’s, should get a gift from Hollywood. Lets get them to film the life story of Ronald Reagan, and have a black man play him, or have him have a gay affair. Or, one of Billy Graham and them mixing it up at an all races “key”party.

    After all, you think its A-ok in this instance, so it should be A-ok in any instance.

  35. Peter Cottontail says:

    Lets remember …
    Brads relatives lived in Africa and sold black men into slavery …profiting off those sales
    This gave rise to modern day “pimping” .

    So lets recap …
    White guys in the USA invented slavery and pimping

    In our next history lesson we’ll explain how a two hundred year old country called America invented everything …

  36. Gwapo says:

    As usual most of you knuckleheads miss the point! As is typical of entitled white folks being blinded by ignorance and arrogance you speak about subjects that you know little about and comment as though you have masters degrees on the topic. Most of you have not seen the movie nor would you bother since the main character is black and the subject at hand would make you uncomfortable. So subsequently you proceed to assign your insecure unfounded bias on the subject and castigate a whole race of people as unqualified to compete with you for your menial factory jobs.

    Here’s an idea..try broadening your horizons and use a few more than 3 crayons in your 48 pack crayon box to draw your inane conclusions. Most of you have never been out of the country..not even Canada, dont have a passport and remain stuck on stupid. Yet you try to wax poetic about other countries that you recall from episodes you have seen on some stupid reality show on television. Many of you have no contact outside your circle of friends…who you have known since second grade. Yet you think you have a global perspective on very complicated issues.

    If this post upsets you then you are the person it was aimed at directly…..idiot!

    • Shettima Mustapha says:

      You sir, have hit the nail directly on the head. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get too many poster trying to refute what you said with actual arguments since this was linked to on Drudge. Most likely it will just 50-60 year old disgruntled white men with comments like “They should put Obama on the poster. hurhurhur” or something along those lines.

    • biffula says:

      As opposed to what? All you entitled black folks and your opinions?

  37. ounceoflogic says:

    14% (or whatever it is) make every decision based on skin color alone, while accusing everyone else of being racists. I’m tired of it.

  38. Carl Pyrdum says:

    Pitt obvious only had a cameo.

  39. Timothy says:

    I knew of the movie but this is the first I have heard that Brad Pitt was also part of the cast.

  40. Mandy says:

    It is called marketing. Big name star is the draw. But then, it is Hollywood and the liberal Left so perhaps they are showing their racism, as usual.

    • Humm, by your logic, I guess Michael Fassbender must be huge in Italy? Maybe people know him from X-men or Inglourious Basterds? I think this article makes a interesting point, and I’m not a liberal progressive, or a race apologist at all. Italians are known for being a bit “prouder” of their heritage, than other European cultures, if you get my meaning. Seriously do a bit of research, you might be surprised by what you find out. Google: Cécile Kyenge

  41. Why would anyone tell an Italian promoter how he or she should sell a film to an Italian audience? Who in America knows what sells in Italy, how to promote a film to maximize viewership in Italy, etc? It seems arrogant to tell foreign business people how to market the film they’re promoting. If anyone feels the content of the film is important in some way, then it stands to reason that they’d want the film promoted in a way that draws the largest audience. Getting hung up on the poster used to put butts in theatre seats at the potential risk of drawing fewer numbers is totally short-sighted, to put it nicely.

    • While you make a sound point, the owner of the film should be able to protect, at least to some extent, how it is marketed/represented to others. It’s almost false advertising to have Pitt so predominately portrayed on the poster, considering he only has a bit part.

  42. Dave says:

    They shoulda had a pic of Steve McQueen on it instead. That woulda been cool. It’s *his* movie, anyway.

  43. john toolbox says:


  44. Vuil Uil says:

    The US has a obsession with race that it is exporting to other countries too.

    When China is top and they export their culture to the world then you’ll understand what feeling superior versus inferior is really about. They don’t tolerate this silly obsession with race since they know they are superior.

  45. Reds says:

    Yes the negroe should get top billing because of the color of his skin! Who is Brad Pitt? I’ve never heard of him!

  46. Yukiko says:

    No one has ever heard of Ejiofor so at best they should have pictured all three at the very least.

  47. Wonker1 says:

    NAACP was started by the REPUBLICAN Party…..FACT.

    • ernaldo says:

      Mostly correct but I must add the white family is facing the same destruction as the negro. Its cultural, and when we make it about race alone, we get distracted.

  48. big daddy D says:

    @ronald meyers..well spoken. But don’t expect an intelligent retort. These racist ignorant backwater dullards aren’t due the time to beat them over the head with things like facts and knowledge. They’d rather spew more ignorance and hatred. That’s the best thing these haters can do. Merry Christmas and screw every one of you Tom Metzger loving racist fools!

  49. ploome says:

    People go to the movie to see Brad Pitt, not the black guy

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