Actor Faizon Love is suing Universal Pictures after he and Black co-star Kali Hawk were scrubbed from the poster for the movie Couples Retreat.
The star has accused the company of committing an ‘act of racism’ by removing him and Kali Hawk – who played the only non-white couple in the film – from the international poster for the 2009 comedy.
Love and Hawk starred as one of four couples who travelled to a tropical island where marriage therapy is a requirement, alongside Vince Vaughn, Kristen Bell, Jason Bateman, Malin Ackerman, Jon Favreau and Kristen Davis.
Their characters Shane and Trudy were used on the domestic poster for Couples Retreat – however, they were removed from the international poster, with the other three white couples remaining.
Their names were also removed from the billing on the English language international poster.
Hawk, 52, and his company The Burning House accuses Universal Pictures of violating California’s fair employment and civil rights laws with the poster, as well as alleging fraud and breach of contract.
The lawsuit reads: ‘Universal Studios had no problem featuring Black actors in the comedic film. But when it came to publicising the film to international audiences, Universal Studios chose to segregate the motion picture’s White and Black actors.
‘This act of racism deeply aggrieved Mr Love. After decades spent honing his craft and compiling more than 50 acting credits, Mr Love reasonably believed Couples Retreat was his opportunity to preset to national and international audiences his talents as a prominent Black comedic actor.
‘It was for naught. Rather than enjoy maximum visibility with the film’s release, Mr. Love was demoted to the proverbial “Invisible Man”, as penned by Ralph Ellison.
‘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. Mr. Love and his Black costar, Kali Hawk, were expunged completely from the film’s principal international advertisement, while the other “couples” basked in the publicity and acclaim of an international box office hit.’
Love alleges that after bringing his complaint to the studio, they promised ‘the immediate cessation of the racist international poster and prompt recompense to Mr Love in the form of lucrative career-making film roles’.
However, he claims that he was not given any ‘career assistance’, and that the studio continues to use the offending poster to promote Couples Retreat.
Love’s attorney Eric George said: ‘As far as Universal was concerned, its contract meant nothing, its promises to correct its egregious behaviour meant nothing, and its pledges to Faizon Love meant nothing.
‘Yet this is not merely a breach of contract and good faith: It is nothing less than a deliberate act of racism on the part of Universal Studios at the highest levels.’
In addition, Love alleges that co-star Vince Vaughan ‘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’.
Back in 2009, Love and Hawk’s deletion from the poster caused controversy, and Universal Pictures said they regretted causing offence, claiming the Black stars were removed from the poster to ‘simplify it’ for the UK and the international market.
Love has starred in films including Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, Elf and Friday.
Since his appearance in Couples Retreat, he has appeared in shows including Black-ish and Step Up: High Water.
Hawk, 34, has since appeared in films including Bridesmaids and Get Him To The Greek, and recurred as Shelby in New Girl.