Postponing or reworking a movie in the wake of tragedy or controversy is nothing new. Many a real-life event, sadly, has rendered the content of an imminent release too close to home. With The Hunt just the latest film to be so affected, here’s a look back at some of the most memorable examples.
The Hunt (2019)
This satirical thriller, starring GLOW‘s Betty Gilpin, tells the tale of everyday people from conservative-leaning states who are kidnapped and hunted for sport by rich elites. Following two mass shootings — in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio — inside of a week, Universal halted the film’s marketing campaign. But it wasn’t until after President Trump assailed the movie on Twitter (without mentioning it by name, he wrote that “the movie coming out” was intended “to inflame and cause chaos”) that the studio announced they were canceling its release.
Phone Booth (2003)
This thriller was set to be released in November 2002 when the Washington, D.C. Beltway sniper attacks occurred in October, killing 10 people. Given the film’s premise — a publicist (Colin Farrell) is tormented by an unseen sniper through phone calls — the film’s distributor decided to delay its release until the next April.
The Watch (2012)
Originally called Neighborhood Watch, this alien-invasion comedy was retitled in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s shooting by a neighborhood watch member. Distributor 20th Century Fox also refocused the film’s marketing campaign to highlight the plot’s sci-fi elements.
Bastille Day (2016)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Stanley Kubrick’s vicious Cold War satire gleefully courted controversy with its pitch-black comedic take on nuclear war, but it was John F. Kennedy’s assassination that prompted changes. The film’s release was postponed, and one joke (“A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff”) was redubbed for obvious reasons.
A climactic pie fight (featuring the would’ve-been-cringeworthy line “Our gallant young president has been struck down in his prime!”) was also cut, though that may have had less to do with JFK: Kubrick said he felt the fight was inconsistent with the film’s overall tone.
Tim Blake Nelson directed this adaptation of Othello, which transplanted Shakespeare’s Venetian tragedy to a high school and, naturally, featured some unsettling teen violence. Slated for an April 1999 release, the film was shelved for two years in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, and distributor Miramax ultimately sold the rights to Lionsgate.
Gangster Squad (2013)
The 2012 Aurora, Colo. shooting — at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises — prompted a reworking of this Ryan Gosling–Emma Stone action pic, which featured a key scene where gangsters gun down moviegoers through a screen at a theater. Reshoots replaced the scene with a new action sequence, and the film’s release was pushed from September to January.
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Ben Affleck‘s directorial debut, which follows a private detective (Casey Affleck) tracking down an abducted three-year-old girl, faced no delays in the U.S. However, the film’s U.K. release was postponed almost six months due to the highly publicized disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a three-year-old British girl, in May 2007. McCann was on vacation with her family in Portugal when she vanished, and her parents faced heavy scrutiny from the British press and on social media for months afterwards. Her whereabouts remain unknown today.
Death Wish (2018)
This remake, starring Bruce Willis as a Chicago man who becomes a gun-toting vigilante after his wife is killed, was pushed from its November 2017 release date following the Las Vegas mass shooting in October. The film ultimately hit theaters in March 2018…less than three weeks after the Parkland high school shooting.
The Interview (2014)
Remember that time Seth Rogen and James Franco set off an international incident? The Interview, which starred the duo as a pair of journalists roped into a plan to assassinate Kim Jong-un, was at the center of the devastating Sony hack in November 2014, for which North Korea was deemed responsible. The hackers demanded the studio not release the film and threatened to attack screenings. Ultimately, many theater chains said they would not show the film, and Sony released it mostly through digital platforms.
View from the Top (2003), Big Trouble (2002), Collateral Damage (2002)
There are entire books to be written about the media impacted by 9/11. Just in the attacks’ immediate aftermath, the Twin Towers were hastily scrubbed from numerous movies and TV shows, and a plethora of films were delayed or reworked. These are just three that faced postponement due to certain sensitive elements: Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s Collateral Damage, centered on a terrorist plot, was held until February 2002 and cut a scene with Sofia Vergara hijacking a plane. Big Trouble, a Tim Allen comedy in which a nuclear bomb smuggled onto an airplane is a prominent plot point, was delayed until April. View from the Top, which starred Gwyneth Paltrow as an aspiring flight attendant, didn’t hit theaters until March 2003. All three were box office flops.