Italian Company Apologizes for Controversial ‘12 Years a Slave’ Poster

'Inappropriate' materials, which favored Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender over black star, to be withdrawn

Italian Company Apologizes Controversial ‘12 Years

The Italian distributor of “12 Years a Slave” has apologized for posters that placed the focus on Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender at the expense of star Chiwetel Ejiofor.

“We apologize for creating and releasing unauthorized posters for ’12 Years a Slave’ in Italy featuring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in a manner inconsistent with approved advertising materials,” BIM Distribuzione said in a statement issued Thursday. “All inappropriate materials have now been withdrawn. We are very proud of the film and regret any distraction this incident may have caused.”

The apology came three days after first news of the posters emerged. Pitt, who produced the film, has a minor role in “12 Years a Slave” and Fassbender is in a supporting role, and both are white, while black actor Ejiofor appears in virtually every scene in the film.

Lionsgate’s Summit label, which was acting as the sales agent for the licensors, had issued a statement Monday that the Italian theatrical posters featuring Pitt and Fassbender were unauthorized and were not approved by any of the producers or licensors of the film. Summit said it was investigating and taking immediate action to stop the distribution of the unauthorized posters and to recall posters already in the marketplace.

BIM worked with marketing company Fanatical About Cinema in making the posters, which have caused an uproar on the Internet. The Tumblr blog “Carefree Black Girl” first disclosed an Italian poster for the acclaimed Steve McQueen-directed drama, which prominently displays Pitt’s face on top of a smaller image of Ejiofor.

“12 Years a Slave” has been nominated for seven Golden Globes, four SAG awards and five Independent Spirit awards. It 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.

BIM has altered its web page so that Ejiofor is the only actor seen in its “12 Years a Slave”image.