12 Years a Slave Controversy: Italian Distributor Apologizes for Poster Emphasizing Brad Pitt Over Chiwetel Ejiofor

"All inappropriate materials have now been withdrawn," BIM Distribuzione said after some critics decried the marketing movie as racist

By Natalie Finn Dec 27, 2013 9:48 PMTags
E! Placeholder Image

Chiwetel Ejiofor may have been nominated for every acting award under the sun for his role in 12 Years a Slave, but apparently he was no Brad Pitt in the eyes of those in charge of marketing the film in Italy.

Distributor BIM Distribuzione has since issued an apology for prominently featuring Pitt, who coproduced the film but is only onscreen for a handful of minutes as an abolitionist Canadian carpenter, on a poster for the film instead of Ejiofor, the true star of the movie.

"All inappropriate materials have now been withdrawn," BIM said in a statement, per The Hollywood Reporter. "We are very proud of the film and regret any distraction this incident may have caused."

It certainly wasn't just the poster's aesthetics, more reminiscent of Legends of the Fall than anything else, that critics disagreed with: Some charged that the swapping of Pitt (and Michael Fassbender, who at least is a prominent player) for Ejiofor was downright motivated by race.

"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," Summit also said in a statement in response to the controversy.

But the backtracking may have been too little, too late.

The 18th Capri Hollywood Film Festival kicked off today with the Italian premiere of 12 Years of Slave, but no stars of the film were there to introduce it.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

It's not immediately known, however, whether any of the film's cast—all of whom were invited—were ever scheduled to attend, considering the just-past holiday and the stars' increasing number of obligations in the U.S. as awards season heats up.

Ejiofor, who is also up for lead actor Golden Globe, SAG and Independent Spirit Awards, has so far been named Best Actor by the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the San Francisco Film Critics, the Southeastern Film Critics Association and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association—and he's received nominations from a slew of others.