Italian ’12 Years a Slave’ Posters Cap Off Bizarre Year of Movie Ad Controversies

Italian 12 Years a Slave Poster
Italian 12 Years a Slave Poster

Have you seen the new Brad Pitt movie, "12 Years a Slave"?

Italian film distributor BIM Distribuzione kicked off Italy's 18th annual Capri Hollywood Film Festival last week with a bit of controversy when they unveiled their poster for Steve McQueen's acclaimed drama, which put the film's white stars front and center.

The artwork reduces lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor to a barely discernible figure in the bottom right corner whilst Brad Pitt's GIANT HEAD floats almost god-like over a plantation field, a wistful movie star look on his face as if he's bemused by the film's graphic depictions of racial violence.

Another poster features an identical layout but replaces Pitt with Michael Fassbender, who plays a brutal, Bible-thumping plantation owner and the film's chief antagonist.

Not surprisingly, this bit of ill-advised marketing hasn't gone unnoticed.

BIM Distribuzione apologized for the posters last Thursday in an official statement:

"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," the distributor said. "All inappropriate materials have now been withdrawn. We are very proud of the film and regret any distraction this incident may have caused."

The distributor also announced that it would incorporate the original U.S. artwork for all marketing materials going forward in anticipation of the film's Italian release date of Feb. 20, 2014.

The apology may be a case of too little, too late, as "12 Years a Slave" star and Golden Globe nominee Lupita Nyong'o was scheduled to attend Friday's premiere of the film but was a no-show at the festival, with no explanation given.

[Related: 12 Things to Know About '12 Years a Slave' Breakout Lupita Nyong'o]

This isn't the only 'PosterGate' incident of 2013. Here are a few other films with distributors who dropped the ball in one way or another.

1. "The Sapphires"

The Australian film stars four Aboriginal actresses as the members of a pioneering 1960s all-girl singing group, though they were reduced to being merely the backup singers of "Bridesmaids" star Chris O'Dowd, who plays the band's manager, in the artwork for Anchor Bay's U.S. DVD release.

O'Dowd himself took to Twitter to express his outrage, calling the artwork "vile," "ridiculous," "misleading," "ill-judged," "insensitive and everything the film wasn't."

A petition to replace the artwork has to date received almost 24,000 signatures, with Anchor Bay issuing an apology and claiming that "new cover art is being considered for future replenishment orders."

Unfortunately, the DVD, which was released in August, still features the original artwork as of this posting.

2. "The Heat"

Melissa McCarthy's physicality is no secret, and audiences love her exactly the way she is. So why in the heck would a distributor try to alter her appearance for marketing materials — and quite horribly, at that? The U.K. poster for "The Heat" is a Photoshop disaster of epic proportions as it renders the funnywoman near-unrecognizable with an absurdly slimmed-down face and neck.

"It's a bummer," director Paul Feig told Huffington Post over the summer. "I love Melissa exactly how she is."

McCarthy herself, not surprisingly, took it all in stride, jokingly claiming that the botched Photoshop job came courtesy of her husband, Ben Falcone.

"Ben did it, and we had a big fight about it because I said I wanted it 80 percent smaller and he said he wanted it 70 percent," McCarthy told The Hollywood Reporter at the New York City premiere of the film, adding that the couple has also agreed that McCarthy should go "headless" in her next poster.

[Related: Badly Photoshopped Movie Posters]

3. "Diana"

There's nothing really wrong with the poster for "Diana," the much-reviled film about the life of the Princess of Wales starring Naomi Watts in the title role. It's where the poster was on display that got its French distributor in a bit of hot water, as one was placed on a placard by the Pont de l'Alma overpass ... right next to the entrance to the tunnel where Diana tragically lost her life in an auto accident in 1997.

The placement especially didn't sit well with Rosa Monckton, who did charity work with Diana. "I really don't have any words to describe how I feel about this cynical and shameless attempt to publicize a film that should never have been made," she told the Daily Mail. "To have made a film so speculative and as this is disgusting enough, but to then advertise it on the spot at which she died is despicable."

After the British press and various social media sites began circulating photos of the offending poster, Le Pacte, the French distributor for the film, arranged for the ad to be taken down, saying the placement was "an unfortunate coincidence."

4. "Thor: The Dark World"

And then there's the Singapore poster for the "Thor" sequel, which isn't so much controversial as it is bizarre ... and, yeah, kind of adorable. There's also something endearing about the implication that Tom Hiddleston — or at least his interpretation of Loki — is bigger in China than Natalie Portman.

Godly/brotherly love!