2. Update – Dec. 24, 1:51 a.m., ET: Lionsgate have said they will recall Italy’s posters that focus on Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender.
Chiwetel Ejiofor has won great acclaim — including a nomination for a Golden Globe — for his leading role as Solomon Northup in the devastating film 12 Years a Slave. But you wouldn’t know it from the posters in Italian theaters.
The Steve McQueen-directed movie will be released in Italy in February by BIM Distribuzione, and ahead of the premiere, painted posters distributed the local marketing company Fantatical About Cinema have cropped up across the country. As first noticed on Tumblr, the posters (many more here) feature Ejiofor running across a field, under the gazing eye of the huge, disembodied head of either of the film’s two white male stars, Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender.
On the other hand, the American poster features Ejiofor running, towering from top to bottom, all by himself.
Pitt is a producer on the film and has just a small (though crucial) role near the end, while Fassbender plays a large part as Northrup’s wicked owner, a performance that also earned him a Golden Globe nomination. Still, Ejiofor is the movie’s clear star, and he’s been downplayed in these posters, which have been featured in theaters in Milan, Rome, and other Italian cities.
That the distributor and poster creators would focus on Pitt is keen — though dishonest — business; the Oscar-nominated actor owns a house in the country and is one of the biggest stars in the world. Fassbender is also popular in Europe, as an Irish-German actor who starred in several films that were larger hits overseas than in America.
Other marketing materials for the film, which is translated to 12 Anni Schiavo for Italian audiences, do feature Ejiofor more prominently. There is some key art that focus on Ejiofor and he is the unavoidable star of the trailer that was released in Italy earlier this month.
BuzzFeed has reached out to Fox Searchlight, the American distributor of the film, as well as Italian distributor BIM, but did not immediately hear back.