As 12 Years A Slave continues to collect critical praise for its stark portrayal of slavery -- as well as the noteworthy performances by lead Chiwetel Ejiofor and breakout Lupita Nyong’o -- Italian promoters of the Steve McQueen film have chosen to feature its white actors in its marketing campaign, inciting international backlash.
The controversy began when a Tumblr user uploaded a photo of the film's poster while at a movie theater in Italy, which featured a large portrait of Brad Pitt. Though Pitt's Plan B Entertainment is one of the film's producers, his role in the film is minimal.
"I was at the movies the other day ( I’m in Italy) [sic] and I saw the poster for 12 Years A Slave," wrote the user with the uploaded photo. "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…I sure don’t know anything about marketing strategy to appeal audiences but isn’t this going to far?"
Other posters for the film, created by marketing firm Fanatical About Cinema for Italian distributor BIM, featured Michael Fassbender's portrait in a similar design.
Lionsgate issued a statement regarding the marketing decision overseas:
"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," said a Summit Entertainment spokesperson in a statement. "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."