Faizon Love sues for racial discrimination over ‘Couples Retreat’ poster

Faizon Love alleges that Universal Studios promised him job offers if he didn't sue over the 'Couples Retreat' poster

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Faizon Love has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Universal Studios for being cut out of the international promotional poster for the 2009 comedy Couples Retreat.

Love, 52, filed the suit on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, more than a decade after starring in the Vince Vaughn-led film about four couples who go on a resort to mend their relationships, Variety reports. Love and his co-star Kali Hawk portrayed the only non-white pairing and were featured in the domestic promo shots. However, they were deleted from international versions while the six white actors remained prominently featured.

Faizon Love thegrio.com
Faizon Love arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of “Couples Retreat” held the Mann’s Village Theatre on October 5, 2009 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

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Controversy immediately erupted at the time over the whitewashing. The studio apologized to Love and backtracked on its decision which they claimed was to ‘simplify’ the poster to focus on the most internationally recognizable actors, LA Times reported in November 2009. Love has now claimed that he felt compelled to file suit because he recently saw the offending image.

“Universal Studios had no problem featuring Black actors in the comedic film. But when it came to publicizing the film to international audiences, Universal Studios chose to segregate the motion picture’s White and Black actors… Rather than enjoy maximum visibility with the film’s release, Mr. Love was demoted to the proverbial ‘Invisible Man,’ as penned by Ralph Ellison,” the complaint read.

“Although Couples Retreat achieved a first-place box office opening weekend ranking, and went on a spectacular run that grossed more than $171 million worldwide, Universal Studios placed Mr. Love in the back seat of the ride enjoyed by his six White costars.”

Furthermore, the filing claims that Universal reneged on offering him lucrative job offers to keep him quiet.

“Universal Studios, …attempting to assuage Mr. Love and prevent his filing suit, promised both (i) the immediate cessation of the racist international poster, and (ii) prompt recompense to Mr. Love in the form of lucrative, career-making film roles. Universal Studios lied,” the filing contended.

Couples Retreat thegrio.com
(Credit: Universal Studios)

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Love, who has appeared  in The Meteor Man and Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, also alleged that 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.”

Love says that this incident caused his career to stagnate because of his omission from Universal’s marketing campaign for the movie.

“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,” Love said in a statement that accompanied the filing.

Love maintained that he is now taking a stand, not just for other Black actors but to impact future generations.

“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.”

Universal has yet to respond.

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