Universal Pictures is reportedly reevaluating its PR strategy for the upcoming film The Hunt in the wake of recent mass shootings.
The violent satire starring Hilary Swank and GLOW’s Betty Gilpin centers on liberal elites stalking and hunting MAGA-type “deplorables” for sport. The trailer for the R-rated flick has already dropped online and is gun-heavy, causing some networks to shy away from airing any advertisements. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ESPN pulled an ad over the weekend for the film that had previously been cleared with a source saying no spots for The Hunt will appear on the network in the coming weeks. A major marketing blitz on television and online had been planned for the beginning of September, one insider tells THR.
Yahoo Entertainment reached out to Universal and ESPN’s parent company Disney for comment, but did not immediately receive responses.
There is an internal divide at Universal over what to do, according to THR. The studio values its relationship with producer Jason Blum (who is behind successful franchises like Paranormal Activity, The Purge and Insidious) and some see the film as a satire commentating on a pertinent issue given the current political climate. However, plans could change "if people think we're being exploitative rather than opinionated,” according to a source.
"Employees in different departments were questioning the wisdom of making such a movie in these times," says one filmmaker with ties to Universal. "In light of the horrific [recent shootings], is this not the most craven, irresponsible, dangerous exploitation?"
A Universal executive countered, explaining the movie "is meant to show what a stupid, crazy world we live in," adding, "It might even be more powerful now."
THR reviewed the screenplay with red-state characters wearing trucker hats and cowboy shirts. One even brags about owning seven guns because it's his constitutional right. The blue-state characters purportedly explain that they picked their human targets because the deplorables expressed anti-choice positions or used the N-word on Twitter.
"Did anyone see what our ratf***er-in-chief just did?" one character apparently asks early in the screenplay. Another responds: "At least the Hunt's coming up. Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables."
Emma Roberts, The Mindy Project’s Ike Barinholtz and This Is Us star Justin Hartley also appear in the upcoming film.
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