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The cast of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials has come under fire for allegedly stealing ancient Pueblo artifacts while filming at a Native American site in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A Care2 petition demanding that Dylan O’Brien, director Wes Ball and other castmembers apologize for disrespecting the Pueblo community was started by 19-year-old fan Maeve Cunningham after O’Brien claimed that he and other co-stars took things from the filming site (despite being given strict orders not to) during an interview on Live! With Kelly and Michael. The petition has so far garnered more than 21,000 signatures.
“The Native Americans from that area, the Pueblo people, have spoken out, angered and disrespected. O’Brien, the film’s director, and other crew members involved need to apologize to Pueblo tribal leaders for their behavior and return any artifacts they removed from the site,” the petition reads. “Native American culture and communities deserve more respect than you apparently showed while filming Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. Fans are furious that you would steal Pueblo artifacts despite being told not to. Please publicly apologize to Pueblo community leaders and return what you stole.”
During the interview, O’Brien told hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan that the cast of the Maze Runner sequel shot part of the film at an ancient Indian burial ground.
“It hadn’t been used for filming ever before. … They gave us this big speech when we got there to shoot, and they said, ‘Don’t take anything. Respect the grounds,’ ” he said. “They were very strict about littering, and don’t take any artifacts like rocks, skulls — anything like that. And everyone just takes stuff, you know, obviously.” He then went on to mention that five actors fell ill within one week of leaving the site, jokingly alluding to the idea that a Native American curse had punished them for it.
Cunningham, a big fan of the Maze Runner film and book series, told Care2 that she was disappointed after watching O’Brien’s interview. “Native American rights are important to me, and hearing someone who you have a lot of respect for completely disregard someone else’s culture and basic human rights in such a disrespecting manner was just this big letdown for me,” she said. “I think if the cast and crew came out and apologized and returned whatever they took from the site, it would be a huge step forward in helping Native Americans get the respect they deserve and really need in this country.”
Despite O’Brien’s comments, the studio behind The Maze Runner, 20th Century Fox, said in a statement Friday that an investigation into the matter involving the Scorch Trials cast and production team “found no evidence that any artifacts were removed from the location.”
“If we discover anything to the contrary in the future, we will of course do everything in our power to rectify the situation,” the statement continues. “We wish to thank the New Mexico Film Office and the Diamond Tail Ranch management, who were incredibly helpful both during our production and with this recent inquiry. Twentieth Century Fox and the entire Scorch Trials production have deep respect for the local Native American culture and environment and are sorry that any actions or statements by people involved in the production led to any suggestion that our intentions were anything but deferential or that anything was taken from the area.”
In response to Fox’s statement, petition creator Cunningham said she hoped it was true that nothing was taken, but she still felt a cast apology was needed.
“I think it’s great if that’s true, but I still think an apology needs to be made by the cast for mocking Native American culture by claiming they had been ‘cursed.’ Stereotypes like that are very harmful,” Cunningham tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And I still think it’s odd if an actor went onto a television show and made a joke like that, and there was no truth to what he was claiming and stating.”
Watch O’Brien’s Live! With Kelly and Michael interview below (comments begin at the 4:34 mark).
Oct. 9, 8:39 p.m. This story has been updated to include Fox’s statement on the results of its investigation into this matter.
Oct. 9, 9:08 p.m. This story has been updated to include the petition creator’s response to Fox’s statement.
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