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Universal apologizes after using a man to dub Laverne Cox in ‘Promising Young Woman’

Three women standing and smiling behind a counter at a coffee shop
Carey Mulligan, left, writer-director Emerald Fennell and Laverne Cox on the set of “Promising Young Woman.”
(Merie Weismiller Wallace / Focus Features / Associated Press)

Universal Pictures International has apologized and delayed its global rollout for “Promising Young Woman” after casting male actors in Italy and elsewhere to dub Laverne Cox’s performance.

The international distributor released a statement Wednesday after an early clip from the Italian version of the Oscar-winning thriller sparked outrage on social media. In the preview, Cox’s character, Gail, was voiced by Italian actor Roberto Pedicini while conversing with Carey Mulligan’s Cassie in a scene from the film.

“We are deeply grateful to Laverne and the transgender community for opening our eyes to a bias that neither we nor many in our industry had recognized,” a spokesperson for Universal Pictures International told the Guardian.

“While there was no malicious intent behind this mistake, we are working diligently to fix it. We have begun redubbing Ms. Cox’s voice with female actors in our international territories and are pushing back release dates to ensure the correct version is available.”

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According to Universal Pictures Italy’s website, the Italian release of “Promising Young Woman” has been rescheduled from Friday to June 24. The Guardian reports that male actors were also tapped to voice Gail in Spain and Germany.

The inauthentic casting choice has been condemned as “downright transphobic” on Twitter, where variations of the following complaint have been circulating:

“@glaad It has come to our attention that in many translations of Emerald Fennel’s film Promising Young Woman, Laverne Cox’s character has been dubbed by a man,” one person tweeted, tagging the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

“Is there something you can do about this? This is pure transphobia and we cannot let this happen.”

Representatives for Cox, the newly announced host for E!'s red-carpet coverage, did not respond Thursday to The Times’ request for comment.

“We are sorry for the pain caused but are thankful that we can address the situation on this film and prevent similar mistakes from happening again on future projects,” the statement from Universal Pictures International continued.

While upholding Carey Mulligan’s right to her opinion, the National Society of Film Critics argues Variety’s apology for its review undermines press freedom.

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Among the many who criticized the distributor for misgendering Cox and her character was trans Italian actress Vittoria Schisano, who told the Guardian she was not considered for the role of Gail despite having dubbed Cox’s work in the past for the Italian version of the Netflix documentary “Amend: The Fight for America.”

“I think this dubbing choice was a straight-up act of violence,” Schisano, who has also dubbed characters for the Italian versions of “Big Mouth” and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” told the Guardian. “It’s insulting. I’d feel bullied if I were [Cox].

“Changing one’s mind can be a smart approach. We can all make mistakes, but those who are smart apologize, take a step back and try to fix it.”

Emerald Fennell wins an original screenwriting Academy Award, the first time a woman has won in the category in 13 years.

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Last month, Cox attended the 93rd Academy Awards where “Promising Young Woman” was nominated in five categories, including lead actress (Mulligan) and best picture. It won original screenplay, accepted by writer-director Emerald Fennell — the first woman to win a screenwriting Oscar since 2008.

“They said [to] write a speech but I didn’t because I just didn’t think this would ever happen,” said Fennell, who was also nominated for director, in her acceptance speech.

“This film was made by the most incredible people in the world who made it in 23 days and brought their complete genius and love and humor to it.”

“Promising Young Woman” is available in the United States on video-on-demand platforms.


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