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‘Haunted Mansion’ Director Calls Out Hypocritical, Racist Backlash For Promoting Film

Justin Simien Haunted Mansion

On July 28, Disney will release its newest live-action film, it hopes to be a summer success, Haunted MansionHaunted Mansion is based on the classic Disney attraction and will tell the story of single mom Gabbie (Rosario Dawson), who moves into an old New Orleans home with her son Travis (Chase Dillon). As the title indicates, the home is haunted by 999 not-so-happy haunts. Gabbie must enlist the help of a priest (Owen Wilson), a history professor (Danny DeVito), a psychic (Tiffany Haddish), and a paranormal investigator (LaKeith Stanfield) to help escape the home. Haunted Mansion will also star Jamie Lee Curtis as Madame Leota and Jared Leto as the Hat Box Ghost.

Disney Live Action Haunted Mansion Remake 2023

Credit: Disney

Haunted Mansion was directed by Justin Simien, who is most well-known for being the creator of the show Dear White People. Simien has frequently expressed his excitement at being given the chance to direct a film based on a ride, so many people love. Simien and the cast got along incredibly well and had a great time promoting the film and talking about their work.

Then the SAG-AFTRA strike happened.

Justin Simien Haunted Mansion cast

Credit: Disney

When the actors’ union joined the writers’ guild on the picket lines, the entire Haunted Mansion cast could no longer promote the film or attend events for the film. That meant that the world premiere — which took place at Disneyland Resort — happened without any of the stars. Simien did show up for the premiere and said that stood by the actors.

A couple of weeks later, Simien took the stage at San Diego Comic-Con, where he and other directors admitted that they were there because they were contractually obligated to be there. Per The Wrap:

Simien, who directed Disney’s “Haunted Mansion,” which comes out on July 28, readily agreed.

“Yes, we were told to be here,” he said with a laugh. “Also, we’re all like — I don’t know, you [Louis] seem a little more extroverted, but I would much prefer to be at home. No shade! No shade to you guys, I would much rather be at home, looking at Rosario Dawson via YouTube.”

Justin Simien Disney

Credit: Disney

Despite Simien supporting the actors, writers, and the strike, he has still received a lot of backlash for continuing to promote the film. What makes things worse is that he appears to be getting more backlash than other directors who are continuing to promote their films during the strikes — directors like Greta Gerwig (Barbie) and Christopher Nolan (Oppenheimer).

Some think they know exactly why Simien is catching more heat, and he doesn’t disagree. TikToker Alphanso (@foreveralphanso) created a video, calling out the hypocrisy of attacking a director of color, but giving white directors a pass. He doesn’t want the white directors to be attacked, but he wants the same standard to be applied to everyone.


#greenscreen #justinsimien #gretagerwig #sagaftra #writersguildofamerica #fyp #foryou @Justin Simien

♬ original sound – ALPHANSO | Pop Culture

Simien reshared the video on his Instagram page.

No shade to Greta… or Christoper… or Wes…

Simien received a lot of support, including from Rosario Dawson and Tiffany Haddish, who wrote:

Don’t you worry @justin_simien I know my Ancestors and a few of yours are going to be on the job. These attackers are gonna be mad that they ever tried you. The ANCESTORS DONT PLAY ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY WORK FOR OUT [sic] FAHTER [sic] GOD!

Tiffany Haddish Haunted Mansion

Credit: Disney

Others pointed out that the hypocrisy was especially damaging because Simien is already a step behind directors like Gerwig and Nolan, as he is a gay man of color.

Are you serious???!! This is sooo foul! This is Justin’s first major studio film and he has NO WHERE NEAR THE COVERAGE that @barbiethemovie has and as Black Gay director he has to do sooo much EXTRA work to make sure his film does well…or be dragged for that too!! I’ve seen an early cut of this film and it’s EXCELLENT! This film was also written by a female writer @katiedippold Why not SUPPORT the inclusivity and the love that Justin shows for the BIPOC community. All the ways that he has fought for representation in this film NEEDS to be commended 👏🏾 people have been coming for him since @dearwhitepeople and I will not have it!! He is allowed to promote his film under the DGA. Check your facts ✊🏿✊🏿✊🏿 See @hauntedmansion in theaters July 28 🔥🙌🏾

Madame Leota, Haunted Mansion Movie

Credit: Disney

When he attended the Haunted Mansion premiere, Simien said that he did check in with the actors, to make sure that it was okay with them that he attend the event. He said that he was “not inclined” to do a lot of press, but he did want to continue to encourage people to see the film, so they can see how much hard work and dedication went into making it.

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

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