Winterbottom’s new film Greed is a comic satire starring Steve Coogan as a billionaire inspired by Arcadia Group chairman Sir Philip Green. It originally ended with a series of captions that referenced real-life stars and named billionaires who have profited from factory workers earning low wages in South Asia.
However, Winterbottom has now claimed that Laine Kline, head of Sony Pictures International, which co-financed the film and is distributing it worldwide, ordered that the references be removed.
Speaking to The Guardian, Winterbottom said: “He was like… We’re not going to have mention of individual brands in those cards or individual billionaires. Because we’re worried about the potential damage to Sony’s corporate relations with these brands.”
The captions originally referenced by name Stefan Persson, the owner of H&M with a net worth of $18 billion, and Amancio Ortega, the owner of Zara who is worth $67 billion. They additionally stated that factory workers in Myanmar and Bangladesh earn between $3.60 and $2.84 a day making clothes for leading high street fashion brands in the UK.
They also, Winterbottom added, “originally pointed out that people like Beyoncé and Stevie Wonder, Robbie Williams, Tom Jones, Jennifer Lopez and Destiny’s Child have all been happy to take cash to go and play at Philip Green’s parties”. Sony demanded those captions were cut, too, Winterbottom alleged.
Sony declined to comment to The Guardian, but Film4, Greed’s fellow co-financiers, said that Winterbottom’s contract for the film “stated that if any creative or business discussions reached a deadlock, Sony’s view would prevail”.
Winterbottom added that he hoped Sony might reconsider their stance on the captions before the film’s official release. “The impact of the film was bigger when we were being more specific, more dynamic, more impactful, more clear,” he said. “But I’m not expecting them to [change their minds].”
Greed screens at the London Film Festival this week and is released in the UK on 22 November.
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