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.
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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: