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Hollywood slammed for changing cast, plot, dialogue and settings to avoid antagonizing China


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Hollywood is censoring its films to placate China and ensure that its multi-billion dollar box office revenue keeps pouring in, according to a damning report.

Filmmakers are increasingly pandering to the Chinese officialdom by editing dialogue, plot and casting, the report concludes.

Movies which it says have been artistically compromised by the Communist paymasters include Bohemian Rhapsody, Iron Man III, and the upcoming Top Gun remake.

Not only is China changing versions of Hollywood films within its own borders, but it is claimed that Beijing’s thought-policing pervades into the final edits screened in cinemas across the world.  

Movies which the report says have been artistically compromised by the Communist paymasters include Iron Man 3 and World War Z 

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, attends the completion and commissioning ceremony for the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS-3) in Beijing, July 31

The report was compiled by the non-profit PEN America, which champions free speech.

‘Pandering to paymasters in Beijing’ 

Iron Man 3

Marvel Studio’s Chinese-version of the 2013 release is noted in the report for a jarring plot device where Chinese doctor’s try to save Iron Man’s life.

The report claims that the film’s producers ‘bent over backwards to maximize its chances of approval in China.’

The film’s producers had substantial financial backing from Beijing-based film producer DMG, the report says, and parts of the film were shot in Beijing which ‘also allowed Chinese regulators to visit the set and to “advise” on creative decisions.’ 

World War Z

In 2013, Paramount Studio bosses allegedly demanded that dialogue be removed from Brad Pitt’s apocalypse film when characters were discussing how the virus had originated in China.

In the movie’s source novel, China is specified as the country from which the zombie outbreak originates.

A Paramount exec who spoke to The Wrap, admitted that the reason for the change to movie had been down to the studio’s desire to pass China’s review process. 

Bohemian Rhapsody

The report says that Beijing’s censors often demand the removal of kisses between same-sex couples movies.

It notes Twentieth Century Fox’s 2018 Freddie Mercury biopic, as well as Cloud Atlas (Warner Brothers Pictures, 2013), Star Trek Beyond (Paramount Pictures, 2016), and Alien: Covenant (Twentieth Century Fox, 2017).

Top Gun (2020) 

In the trailer for the remake, Tom Cruise’s trademark bomber jacket adorned with patches from the original movie had undergone a makeover.

Where there used to be a Japanese flag, there was simply a red triangle against a white background, and instead of a Taiwanese flag, a patch of a random pattern with similar colors.

China is the world’s second largest box office market behind the US and studios are becoming increasingly reliant on its business.

American films earned 2.6 billion dollars (about £2 billion) in China last year, according to the Hollywood Reporter, with Disney’s superhero extravaganza Avengers: Endgame making 614 million dollars (about £468 million).

The PEN report says studios are self-censoring to ensure favourable treatment from the Chinese government, which can lead to better release dates and preferential advertising arrangements.

The country’s censorship regime is opaque, according to the report, with filmmakers ‘reliant on rumour and innuendo to determine where the actual boundaries of censorship lie’.

Hollywood’s alleged willingness to bend to China has angered the White House.

In July, US attorney general William Barr slammed the film industry for being ‘all too willing to collaborate with the Chinese Communist Party’.

The PEN report contrasted Hollywood’s perceived readiness to criticize politicians at home with its attitude towards Beijing.

The report says Hollywood ‘enjoys a reputation as a place uncowed’ by the US government and is ‘often gleefully willing to speak truth to American political power’.

However, it takes the opposite approach to the Chinese government, according to PEN.

And if Hollywood, in its position as the centre of global filmmaking, is unwilling to stand up to China’s demands, there is little chance of others around the world taking the risk, the study says.

‘In effect, Hollywood’s approach to acceding to Chinese dictates is setting a standard for the rest of the world,’ the report states.

Examples of censorship listed in the report include Marvel’s 2016 superhero film Dr Strange, which is accused of whitewashing a major Tibetan character for fear of jeopardising the film’s chances in China.

And upcoming action movie sequel Top Gun: Maverick is criticized for the ‘mysterious disappearance of the Taiwanese flag’ in a 2019 trailer.

The 94-page document, titled Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing: The US Film Industry and Chinese Government Influence, makes a series of recommendations.

It says Hollywood studios should insist any version of a film censored for the Chinese market does not become the default version issued for a global release.

Black British actor John Boyega’s character was notably smaller in the Chinese poster for the 2015 Star Wars film

‘Filmmakers cannot reduce their work to the lowest common denominator of only content that is deemed acceptable by one of the world’s most censorious regimes,’ the report states.

PEN also recommends studios ‘openly and transparently’ acknowledge how and why a film has been censored.

The measures ‘would be a powerful step toward shoring up Hollywood’s commitment to freedom of expression in the fact of this growing dynamic of censorship and propagandistic government influence,’ according to the report.


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