China Demanded Sony Remove Statue of Liberty from ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
Studio refused to remove the section of the film
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) demanded a major U.S. movie studio remove the Statue of Liberty from the recent Spider-Man blockbuster movie as a precondition for circulating the film in China, according to reports.
But the studio refused to remove the section of the film, the Hollywood insider revealed.
Matthew Belloni, a former editor of the Hollywood Reporter and entertainment lawyer, reported Sunday that the Chinese demanded the removal of the iconic New York Harbor symbol of American freedom from the ending of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
Two earlier Spider-Man films, made by Marvel Studios, had grossed $116 million and $200 million in China.
Chinese authorities told Sony Pictures Entertainment in late 2021 that before the film could be shown in China the Statue of Liberty had to be removed or reduced in prominence from the ending scenes.
The last scene involves three incarnations of the web-slinging hero battling supervillains while swinging over the statue attached to the heroes’ spider-like web lines.
Mr. Belloni, writing in the insider newsletter Puck, said studio executives were eager for the revenue expected from showing the film in China but could not agree to the edits.
Chinese censors also reportedly asked Sony whether the Statue of Liberty could be minimized in the ending sequence, by dulling the lighting around the statue to make it less prominent.
“It was an outrageous ask,” Mr. Belloni wrote.
“Sony thought about this request, per my sources, but ultimately passed, knowing that it almost certainly meant forfeiting that potentially massive China payday.”
Additionally, cutting out the statue also would have created more controversy by appearing to cave into the Chinese Communist Party's pressure.
Even with the changes, the studio had no guarantee that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” would have been chosen by Chinese authorities to be among the small number of American films allowed to be shown in the domestic market annually.
Mr. Belloni declined to disclose the sources for the report but said in an email he was “very, very confident” about the accuracy of the dispute between China and Sony.
China has forced Hollywood in the past to alter films on ideological grounds.
In 2011, the MGM agreed to demands to edit out the Chinese military from a remake of the movie “Red Dawn,” about an invasion and takeover of the United States.
Instead, the film was changed in post-production to show a less-plausible attack on the United States by North Korean troops.
Last year, China's state-controlled Global Times declared that Hollywood's “political correctness” will eventually destroy the industry.
The outlet highlighted Hollywood's decision to exclude author J.K. Rowling from the Harry Potter movie anniversary celebration because of her comments about transgender individuals, and the Academy Awards’ new diversity quotas requiring minority representation for best picture consideration.
The Global Times predicted:
“If Hollywood continues down this road, it will dig its own grave and destroy its reputation one day."