SINGAPORE - At a recent press conference, actors Chris Evans and Taika Waititi held their ground over the inclusion of a same-sex kiss in their animated film Lightyear.
That scene has caused the film to not play in 14 Asian and Middle Eastern countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates.
And in Singapore, it received an NC16 rating from the Infocomm Media Development Authority – the highest for a film from the Pixar animation studio. This would restrict entry to those aged 16 and up. It opens here on June 16.
American actor Evans, 41, responding to a question about the show of affection between the same-sex couple, says that films should “absorb the times and reflect it outward”.
In Lightyear, Evans plays the title character of the space explorer Buzz Lightyear. In the Toy Story universe, this movie inspires the creation of the toy of the same name found in the Toy Story film franchise (1995 to 2019).
In the film, Buzz's close friend is a female space ranger (voiced by American actress Uzo Aduba) who marries another woman. A scene showing milestones in the couple's relationship includes a brief kiss.
“That’s what people want out of movies,” says the actor, who rose to global prominence starring as Captain America (2011 to 2019) in the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Quoting actress Julianne Moore, he adds that “the audience doesn’t come to see you, they come to see themselves”.
“And I think that is the world we are living in right now. That’s the right move - to have these kinds of representations, to have them find a home on the screen,” says Evans.
His comments came before it was announced that several countries would ban the film.
His co-star, the New Zealand film-maker and actor Taika Waititi, 46, plays Maurice “Mo” Morrison, a member of Lightyear’s team. Speaking at the same online conference, he says that he is “very happy” with how the same-sex couple was depicted in the film, saying it that was not a token portrayal.
He hopes that one day, scenes featuring same-sex couples will not feel important enough to be commented on.
Waititi says: “It would be nice to slowly, hopefully, get to a place where you don’t even have to think about it and it doesn’t have to be a talking point. Because that’s the world we want to get to.
“Then we can actually focus on even more intense things that we have to worry about, you know?”
A Lightyear producer told Reuters that authorities in China had asked for cuts to the movie, which Disney declined to make, and she assumed the movie would not open there either.
Disney has not received an answer from Chinese authorities on whether they would allow the film in cinemas, Lightyear producer Galyn Susman said. But she said film-makers would not make changes to the movie.
China has rejected other on-screen depictions of homosexuality in the past. And homosexuality is considered criminal in many Middle Eastern countries.
"We're not going to cut out anything, especially something as important as the loving and inspirational relationship that shows Buzz what he's missing by the choices that he's making, so that's not getting cut," Susman told Reuters at the movie's red-carpet premiere in London.