Universal Pictures Apologizes for Having Male Actor Dub the Voice of a Transgender Woman

(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

A major Hollywood studio is in trouble for altering an Oscar winner.

In case you haven’t seen the 2020 film Promising Young Woman, here’s a summary from Flixter.com:

Nothing in Cassie’s life is what it appears to be — she’s wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she’s living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs from the past.

The movie made quite the impression — with critics.

Rotten Tomatoes reports a 90% critics score for what the legendary Peter Travers called a “diabolically funny takedown of toxic masculinity.”

The flick even won this year’s Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

It was nominated for Best Director (Emerald Fennell), Best Actress (Carey Mulligan), Writing (Original Screenplay), and Film Editing.

And as they say, you don’t mess with a masterpiece.

Yet, Universal Pictures International (UPI) had to — for the film’s release in Italy.

Unfortunately, the studio made a much-maligned move.

Promising Young Woman features Laverne Cox in a supporting role.

Laverne is a biological male identifying as a woman. And in the case of the dubbed Italian-audience version, for voice actor, UPI chose a biological male.

Roberto Pedicini, 59, stepped in for 48-year-old Laverne.

On May 6th, the studio posted a clip of the new rendition.

“In the since-restricted video,” The Guardian reports, “Cox’s character, Gail, talks to protagonist Cassie…in a distinctively masculine tone.”

The result, per the New York Post: an “outcry of complaints.”

Fast-forward to an apology from Universal:

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. 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.

Casting, in general, has become increasingly complex.

Last year, The Simpsons announced it would replace all white actors who’d previously voiced non-white characters.

And this week, white/Jewish Short Circuit star Fisher Stevens told Yahoo Entertainment his turn as an Indian man — 34 years ago — “definitely haunts” him.

Short Circuit wasn’t much critically praised, but the following are only some of Promising Young Woman’s wins:

  • BAFTA – Best Screenplay (Original), Outstanding British Film of the Year
  • Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards – Best Writing, Original Screenplay; Best Woman Director
  • Atlanta Film Critics Circle – Best Actress, Best Screenplay
  • Austin Film Critics Association – Best Actress, Best First Film
  • Boston Online Film Critics Association – Best Film
  • Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards – Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay

Back to Laverne, it’s not the first time a man has done the Italian honors.

From The Guardian:

In Orange is The New Black, her character, Sophia Burset, was voiced by male dubber Andrea Lavagnino, who also voiced her characters in The Mindy Project and short-lived drama Doubt. But Italy is far from being the only country misgendering Cox on the dubbing stage. In Spain and Germany, a cis man was cast to voice Cox in Promising Young Woman.

Italian transgender voice actor Vittoria Schisano claimed Universal’s decision was downright violent:

“I think this dubbing choice was a straight-up act of violence.”

Even so, perhaps all’s well that ends well — Universal’s recognized it promoted “pain”:

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.

Onward and upward.

Meanwhile, maybe Laverne doesn’t have it so bad: The dubbing couldn’t have been as wrong as this one, from a Hollywood titan’s first time out:


See more pieces from me:

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White Actor Is Haunted by His Racial Appropriation in One of 1986’s Biggest Hits

Mainline Protestantism Gets Its First Transgender Bishop

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