Universal Pictures Spark Backlash, Apologize For Dubbing Transgender Activist Laverne Cox With Male Voice

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Universal Pictures have apologized for dubbing Laverne Cox — famous for portraying the transgender female character, Sophia Burset, in Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black” — with a male voice in some non-English versions of the Oscar-winning movie, “Promising Young Woman.”

“Cox, one of Hollywood’s most high-profile transgender actresses, plays coffee shop owner Gail,” reported BBC News. “But in Italy, her voice was replaced by that of actor Roberto Pedicini.”

The Guardian also noted that a man was also cast to voice Cox in the Spanish and German versions of the movie.

“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,” Universal Pictures International told the Guardian in a statement. “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.”

“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,” the statement added.

Vittoria Schisano, an Italian trans actor and voice actor, told the Guardian that the original dubbing choice was “a straight-up act of violence.”

“It’s insulting. I’d feel bullied if I were [Cox],” Schisano added.

“Dubbing is something completely different from what I’ve been doing my whole life,” Schisano continued, according to The Guardian, adding that dubbing is like “finding a dress that perfectly fits someone,” and this “has nothing to do with being cis or trans.”

On the subject of Universal Pictures’ reaction to criticism, Schisano said that, “Changing one’s mind can be a smart approach. We can all make mistakes, but those who are smart apologize, take a step back and try to fix it.”

The Guardian continued, stating that “This isn’t the first time Italy’s dubbing industry has failed Cox and the trans community.” In “Orange Is The New Black,” for example, Cox’s character was reportedly voiced by male dubber Andrea Lavagnino, “who also voiced her characters in The Mindy Project and short-lived drama Doubt.”

The decision to re-dub Cox’s voice has caused the Italian release of the Academy Award-winning movie — originally scheduled to be released last week — to be postponed. “It was released in Spain in April but is being reworked, and has been pushed back in Germany,” noted The Hill.

The Hollywood Reporter broadened this issue beyond the subject of gender identity, writing, “The discussion over the use of voice-over actors and representation recalls a similar debate sparked late last year in several European countries over the Pixar film Soul.” 

“The lead character Joe Gardner, the first Black protagonist in Pixar’s history, and voiced by Jamie Foxx in the original, was dubbed by white actors in several territories, including Denmark, Germany and Spain,” added The Hollywood Reporter. 

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