Faizon Love filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing Universal of race discrimination when it cut him out of the poster for the 2009 film “Couples Retreat.”
The film featured four couples who go to a resort to repair their relationships. Love and his co-star, Kali Hawk, played the only non-white couple, and they were removed from the poster when the film opened overseas.
In a statement accompanying the suit, Love alleged he was the victim of whitewashing.
“This film was a big money-maker for Universal, but instead of honoring my work and my contract, the studio chose to render me invisible to billions of moviegoers around the world,” he said.
The deletion stirred controversy at the time. According to the Daily Mail, Universal said then that it regretted causing offense, and would discontinue the poster.
But according to the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Love recently discovered that the offending image remains in wide use to market the film abroad and among bilingual audiences in the U.S. Love alleges that Universal executives broke their promise, and also reneged on an offer of lucrative TV and film roles, which he now believes was an effort to keep him quiet about the controversy.
The suit also alleges that Vince Vaughn, a co-star of the film, was looped into the effort to placate Love. According to the claim, Vaughn “went so far as to tell Mr. Love that making a big deal about his removal from the poster would not be good for his career at that time.”
The suit also states that Adam Fogelson, then chairman of Universal Pictures, called Love to discuss potential projects, and that producer Scott Stuber called to apologize for the poster.
“What Universal Studios had initially portrayed to Mr. Love as an unintentional act of oversight and carelessness was, we now know, an intentional act of disparate and discriminatory treatment by Universal Studios and the remaining Defendants,” the lawsuit states.
Love alleges that Universal never came through with a job offer, and, in fact, his career stagnated after the incident.
In the statement, Love said he is seeking redress on behalf of Black actors who have been mistreated by the industry.
“They have not only hurt me financially, they have hurt me in a deeper way by dismissing me because of my Blackness — and they have hurt all Black performers by continuing to perpetuate racism in the movie industry,” Love said. “I want to ensure that future generations don’t have to endure the racism and whitewashing that I have experienced.”
The suit accuses Universal of fraud, breach of contract, and violation of California’s fair employment act and civil rights law.
Universal declined to comment.
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