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Back in 2009, Couples Retreat brought together an ensemble of actors to Bora Bora to make the chart-topping comedy. The movie re-teamed Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn for the first time in almost ten years for a film about four couples who vacation together for a therapy retreat. Universal is now being sued regarding the movie’s decision to leave the film’s only Black couple out of international posters to this day, despite alleged internal promises to mend the issue.
Faizon Love issued the lawsuit on Wednesday, with intention to take Universal Studios to the California Superior Court on accusations of fraud, breach of contract and violation of California’s fair employment act and civil rights law. Both Love and Kali Hawk, who played a couple in Couples Retreat alongside the other three couples played by Vince Vaughn, Malin Akerman, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell, were removed from posters. Love claims this is a whitewashing issue and that the company broke promises made to address it. Below you can see two versions of the Couples Retreat poster:
The most popular version of the Couples Retreat poster found on places such as iTunes or Amazon still uses the poster including Faizon Love and Kali Hawk, but the one (on the right) without them is still reportedly in circulation abroad and is used for bilingual audiences in the US. Love apparently brought up the issue back when the movie came out in 2009 too and was promised it would be removed and that he would receive lucrative career opportunities following the incident. In one clause in the document, Love recalls a moment where Vince Vaughn was brought into the fold with Universal’s President of Marketing at the time, Adam Fogelson. The lawsuit claims that the following happened during a phone conversation:
The two committed to putting Mr. Love on a TV show with Vaughn. Stuber also guaranteed Mr. Love the racist poster would be removed and that he would be cast in future productions of films Stuber produced for Universal Studios, if Mr. Love did not publicly or legally pursue the issue of his removal from the one sheet for the movie. Vaughn apparently 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, a statement to which Fogelson did not object.
Since it does not look like Faizon Love and Freaky actor Vince Vaughn worked together following Couples Retreat and the poster was never completely removed from circulation, this is the basis of the actor’s case. Per the lawsuit’s allegations, Vince Vaughn and Fogelson were part of some empty promises to the actor that he believes were leveraged in order to keep him from enacting legal measures. In a statement accompanying the lawsuit Love said this, per Variety:
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. 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. I want to ensure that future generations don’t have to endure the racism and whitewashing that I have experienced.
In the past few years, Hollywood has been placing a broader focus on reversing its wrongs when it comes to representation and racial discrimination in major films. We’ll keep you updated at CinemaBlend regarding how this and other Hollywood-centered cases pan out.