KUALA LUMPUR • Disney yesterday said it will not release a censored version of its film, Beauty And The Beast, in Malaysia after the authorities in the Muslim-majority nation cut a gay scene in the movie.
The film, featuring Harry Potter star Emma Watson, has raised hackles of religious groups worldwide with its depiction of Le Fou, the sycophantic sidekick to antagonist Gaston, as a gay man.
The head of Malaysia's censorship board had earlier told local media that a "gay moment" had been removed from the film before its release was approved. But yesterday, a Disney spokesman said that "the film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia", effectively shelving plans to release it there.
The film was originally slated to be released today in Malaysia. Director Bill Condon has said the movie contains Disney's "first exclusively gay moment", although some critics have said the reference is extremely mild and fleeting.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, where laws criminalising sodomy can result in imprisonment, corporal punishment and fines.
Religious groups and Islamic scholars had called for the film to be banned over concerns that it would promote "negative values" in the country. The movie has also come under fire from religious figures in neighbouring Singapore for deviating from "wholesome, mainstream values".
At least one theatre in the American state of Alabama has refused to show the film, while Russia has slapped an adults-only rating on it.
Despite the controversy, the movie has already become the fastest-selling family film in history, outpacing previous record-holder Finding Dory, said online ticket seller Fandango, ahead of its release this week.