Actor/comedian Faizon Love sued Universal Studios Wednesday over its longtime ad campaign for the 2009 film “Couples Retreat,” alleging he and another Black actor were not featured in foreign publicity for the movie because of their race.
“Setting aside Universal Studios’ self-professed solidarity with progressive racial goals, the facts underpinning this case demonstrate that Universal Studios is a fully participating collaborator in maintaining a bigoted status quo,” Love’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges.
A Universal Studios representative could not be immediately reached for comment on the suit, which alleges breach of contract, fraud and violations of the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Love was one of eight principal stars and one of only two Black stars, along with Kali Hawk, in the comedy, which has grossed more than $171 million to date. Love’s contract with Universal guaranteed him star billing on par with six of his co-stars, including in advertising and promotional materials for the film, according to his court papers.
In the U.S., Love and Hawk appeared in those materials. But when the picture was released internationally, the studio used a different poster from which Love and Hawk’s faces and names were removed, the suit states. The studio also allegedly refused to invite Love to participate in the European press tour for the film’s initial foreign release.
“As far as Universal was concerned, its contract meant nothing, its promises to correct its egregious behavior meant nothing and its pledges to Faizon Love meant nothing,” said the entertainer’s attorney, Eric George. “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.”
Love challenged Universal in 2009 regarding its marketing for “Couples Retreat” and the studio promised to cease using the offending ad and to provide Love with other significant film roles, as well as a prominent role in a television show alongside Vince Vaughn, with whom Love appeared in the film, according to the suit.
Love says he accepted the alleged promises and did not sue at the time.
Despite Universal’s alleged failure to fullfill promises to him for additional film and TV roles, Love believed the company had at least made good on its pledge to correct its advertising to meet its contractual obligations to him, the suit states. But in July, he found out that Universal continues to use the same foreign ad material in alleged violation of his contract, leaving him no alternative but to sue, according to his court papers.