Unilever goes cold over Ben and Jerry and sex

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

A film featuring a tub of Ben and Jerry's ice-cream, Alison Steadman and a lewd sexual act is being threatened with legal action by the ice cream owners Unilever over misrepresentation of the brand.

A film featuring a tub of Ben and Jerry's ice-cream, Alison Steadman and a lewd sexual act is being threatened with legal action by the ice cream owners Unilever over misrepresentation of the brand.

The original owners of Ben and Jerry's ice-cream, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, might have seen the funny side of it, but Unilever, which acquired the ice cream company earlier this year, is threatening to sue the film-makers.

The film, called Chunky Monkey, takes its name from Ben and Jerry's chocolate ice cream, which is used in the film as a part of a sexual act.

The production team behind Chunky Monkey, Open Road Films, is refusing to back down, saying the ice cream is an "integral part" of the film.

"It's just ridiculous," said Phil Hunt, the film's producer. "There is no defamation of the ice cream and we thought we sorted out all the copyright issues before we started with the filming." But Unilever has taken particular exception to the inclusion of its ice cream in a fantasy involving a Julie Andrews look-alike in a sexual act with the lead character, in which Chunky Monkey is used as a lubricant.

In a letter written to Open Road Films, Unilever's lawyers claim: "We consider that any association of our client's mark with anal sex, violent murders, blasphemy and dismembered bodies would be extremely detrimental to the reputation of the brand." Unless Open Road Films agrees to change the title, "re-shoot, or dub over all references to Chunky Monkey" Unilever will apply for an injunction to prevent the film being shown. But Mr Hunt said: "This is about freedom of expression and censorship. If they want to sue us then we will see them in court."

The film, which has been described as "Abigail's Party on acid", has Alison Steadman as the neighbour of a bachelor, played by David Threlfall, who has a sexual fantasy about Julie Andrews and Chunky Monkey ice-cream.

Eventually he meets a woman who is willing to play out this fantasy. But when the day arrives a host of bizarre characters turn up instead, including a black Jesus Christ, his two skinhead disciples, a French cabaret singer and a porn star. Mr Hunt said: "People who have already seen the film have found it hilarious. It is a crazy mix of character observation and black humour."

The move towards legal action was announced after Unilever managed to get hold of an uncut copy of the film. The leading human rights lawyer, David Price, acting for Mr Hunt, said they would defend any attempt to injunct the film by using the newly implemented Human Rights Act, which guarantees freedomof expression.

Mr Hunt says that when Unilever bought the ice-cream it failed to acquire the sense of humour to go with it. "In no part of the film do you see the sexual act complained of being performed," he added.

Greg Cruttwell, the writer and director of the film, decided to name it Chunky Monkey because that was the first ice cream he tasted when he visited America.

Mr Cruttwell said: "Making Chunky Monkey has been liberating for everyone on both sides of the camera. I started out not wanting to write a formula movie and nor did I want to approach making it like one either. It is what it is and I'm extremely proud of that."

Comments