Nearly a dozen Native American actors and a cultural adviser walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie that’s currently filming because of depictions they found insulting, according to a report by Indian Country Today Media Network.
Actor Loren Anthony said the script, penned by Sandler and his longtime screenwriting partner Tim Herlihy, was insulting to Native women and elders and inaccurately portrayed Apache culture. He said the actors, who were supposed to be playing Apache men and women, were made up to resemble Comanches. Anthony and David Hill were among the actors who walked off the set Wednesday.
The film, part of Sandler’s four-picture deal with Netflix, is supposed to be a send-up of “The Magnificent Seven.” It reportedly included characters named “Beaver’s Breath” and “No Bra” and included a scene with an Apache woman “squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe.”
“There were about a dozen of us who walked off the set,” Anthony, who is Navajo, told ICMTN. “I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set.”
Hill said the excuses used to justify inaccurate portrayals of Apache culture mirrored those Redskins owner Daniel Snyder uses to defend the name of Washington’s football team. “Our dignity is not for sale,” Hill said. “It is a real shame because a lot of people probably stay because they need a job.”
Multiple people, including hair and makeup artist Goldie Tom, told reporter Vincent Shilling that they implored the film’s producers and director to make changes. But those requests seemed to fall on deaf ears.
“We talked to the producers about our concerns,” said Allison Young, a Navajo filmmaker and actress. “They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’ I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way.”
Just two days ago, Young was tweeting about how thrilled she was to be working with Danny Trejo. “Really awesome time working w/ u on set today!! As always — a bada– performance #RidiculousSix #NativeLuv ;),” she wrote in a tweet directed at the actor.
Anthony, who posted pictures from the set on his Instagram account — including one where Sandler appears to be in redface (that’s him, seated, in the red headband above) — confirmed that he and other actors left the project on Twitter:
Today work was no bueno, my native women were disrespected and i walked off set.
— Loren Anthony (@BLOODLINE1) April 23, 2015
Anthony also retweeted messages of support he received for leaving the set.
— Natalie (@nataliewrites) April 23, 2015
— Ifeoma Okah (@IfeomaOkah) April 23, 2015
“This is so disgusting,” Adrienne Keene, the founder of Native Appropriations, wrote in a post on Facebook. “Adam Sandler’s new film relies on racist and demeaning stereotypes of Native peoples, forcing Native actors to walk off the set. I don’t even know what to say.”
This is hardly the first time Sandler has faced criticism for inaccurate and stereotypical depictions of racial minorities in his movies.
Writing for the New Yorker, critic Richard Brody called “Blended,” Sandler’s 2014 comedic effort co-starring Drew Barrymore, “grotesquely offensive”:
No sooner do the families arrive at the resort than the obliviously trivializing depictions of black people, based on long-superseded stereotypes, begin. The Friedmans get out of their limo and are greeted by the hotel’s staff, all black, starting with a singing group, called Thathoo (pronounced “Tattoo”). The group leader’s eye-rolling and glad-handing, his lubriciously insinuating and exaggeratedly jiving, all seem to be taken straight from a minstrel show. And, throughout the movie, the group pops up like a Greek chorus to underline the action. There’s also an obsequious greeter whose exaggerated ingratiations would shame the hospitality business. Though his malapropisms are ultimately seen to be a canny joke, his manner is never anything but grinningly servile. And there’s an elderly slacker, sleeping on the job and avoiding responsibility, whose lazy ways are a monstrous and venerable cliché.
Messages left with Happy Madison, Sandler’s production company, were not returned.
Update: A spokesman for Netflix provided this response to the Post: “The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous. It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke.”