Following reports that Marvel's upcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been banned in Saudi Arabia, an official from the Middle-Eastern nation has clarified that they are still trying to negotiate with the film's production house Disney.
As per the official, Saudi Arabia wanted Disney to cut a scene with same-sex relationship references but the studio outright refused. As per reports, the film isn't banned yet though as talks are still underway. The film releases on 6 May worldwide.
It was reported earlier that Saudi Arabia had banned the film from release in the country. Reports claimed that it was due to the presence of lesbian character America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez). However, it has now emerged the real reason for Saudi's hesitation in letting the film release is a scene where the character refers to her "two moms".
Marvel reportedly re-filmed "a majority" of Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness
It made headlines some time ago when it was announced that Doctor Strange 2 would undergo 'significant' reshoots.
According to a report in The Guardian, Nawaf Alsabhan, Saudi Arabia's general supervisor of cinema classification, said, "It's just her talking about her moms, because she has two moms. And being in the Middle East, it's very tough to pass something like this. We sent it to the distributor, and the distributor sent it to Disney, and Disney has told us they are not willing."
However, the official refuted the reports that the film has been banned in the country. Speaking to the news agency AFP, he said, "It will never be banned. There's no reason to ban the film. It's a simple edit...so far they have refused. But we haven't closed the door. We're still trying."
Recently, Warner Bros had accepted a similar request from the Chinese authorities and cut same-sex romance references in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. This allowed the release of the film in the lucrative market. However, the studio was criticized by LGBTQI activists for caving in to China's request. Defending their actions, the studio released a statement that read, "As a studio, we're committed to safeguarding the integrity of every film we release, and that extends to circumstances that necessitate making nuanced cuts in order to respond sensitively to a variety of in-market factors."
Disney, too, had come under criticism for its handling of Florida's controversial 'Don't Say Gay' bill, following which the studio altered its stance. Many have speculated that their refusal to pay heed to Saudi requests could be damage control after that backlash.
Directed by Sam Raimi, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen. Part of MCU's Phase 4, it is in direct continuation to Spider-Man: No Way Home. The film deals with the concept of variants and multiverse and hence, there are chances of several actors making cameos either as variants of existing characters or returning to play fan favourite roles from other franchises.