The Eternals, which features world-renowned Hollywood stars including Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, was reportedly filmed from theaters in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait due to the inclusion of the first gay superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The new film, which features tech genius Fastos (Brian Tyree Henry) in the MCU’s first same-sex kiss, was quietly banned ahead of its November 11 release in conservative Gulf countries, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter reported.
The stellar superhero film directed by Oscar winner Chloe Zhao was reportedly greeted by local censors with a number of editing requests, and Disney was reluctant to make those changes, THR reported.
Disney representatives did not immediately respond Thursday to The Times’ request for comment.
The Eternals – part of the Marvel Phase 4 rollout – opened Wednesday in 14 international markets and also stars Richard Madden, Gemma Chan and Kumail Nanjiani as super-powerful ancient beings protecting humanity. In the final version of the film in the United States, the protagonist Fastos plays at home with his mortal husband (played by Lebanese actor Haaz Suleiman) and their child.
Zhao, who made history with her Oscar win for Nomad Land earlier this year, said she asked Marvel not to change any scenes to appease censors.
“I don’t know all the details, but I believe there was a discussion, and I and Marvel really wanted – we talked about it – not to change the cut of the film,” she told IndieWire. “Fingers crossed.”
Saudi Arabia, which reopened its cinemas in 2018 after a 35-year ban, has quickly become the largest theater market in the Middle East but still censors films frequently. homosexuality is illegal in most of the region and is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Many films are being closed or censored for references to LGBTQ.
The alleged ban came just ahead of the kingdom’s plans to launch the brilliant Red Sea International Film Festival next month – an event that promises exhibitors that organizers will not make editorial cuts or changes to any film without written permission from the copyright holders.
Previously posted “Eternals” announcements are not available on websites in either country or in Kuwait. The regional booking website elCinema.com, which publishes theater listings by country as well as what’s coming soon, also doesn’t include Eternals in some Gulf countries. The film will appear “soon” in Egypt and Lebanon. It is expected to be released as planned in the United Arab Emirates, according to trade publications.
THR, one of the regional movie theater chains, reported that The Eternals had been “banned,” but did not explain why.
In Singapore, The Eternals became the first MCU film to receive M18 certification, restricting viewing to viewers under the age of 18. A spokesman for the Infocommunication Development Authority of Singapore told the Guardian that this was the result of “homosexual references.”
Zhao’s film will likely not be released in China either. The Beijing-born filmmaker faced nationalist backlash in mainland China after discussing her upbringing there. China, the world’s largest film market, also skipped the release of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings earlier this year, despite starring the studio’s first Asian superhero, due to his “abuse” of China. Simu stars. Liu.
Eternals actor Suleiman told Variety magazine at the Los Angeles premiere that he believed his scene with Henry “saved a life.”
“Can you imagine how many lives it will save – children, young queers who are bullied, commit suicide and do not see what they are presented with? And now they see it – it is above and beyond the possibilities, ”he said.
The project also features the MCU’s first deaf superhero, Makkari (played by Lauren Ridloff), and the first MCU sex scene between two heterosexual characters.