Italian Distributor Apologizes for '12 Years A Slave' Posters

12 Years a Slave Violin - H 2013
Fox Searchlight

12 Years a Slave Violin - H 2013

The company has recalled the marketing materials focusing on Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender instead of star Chiwetel Ejiofor, saying they were "unauthorized."

BIM Distribuzione, the Italian distributor of 12 Years A Slave, late in the week recalled and apologized for movie posters that focused on Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender rather than the film's star, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

It said the posters were "inconsistent" with approved advertising materials.

"All inappropriate materials have now been withdrawn," BIM said. "We are very proud of the film and regret any distraction this incident may have caused.” The apology came after the marketing materials caused a social media firestorm, with some critics suggesting they were racist.

PHOTOS: '12 Years a Slave': Exclusive Portraits of Star-Producer Brad Pitt and His Cast

Fassbender has a supporting role in the film, while Pitt is a producer and appears briefly in an acting role, but Ejiofor is the star who portrays a man who ends up in slavery. New posters are shining the spotlight on him, according to Italian media reports.

Sales agent Lionsgate’s Summit had, early in the week, said that the posters in Italy were not authorized and approved by the producers or licensors of the film. "Summit Entertainment, acting as exclusive sales agent for the licensors, is investigating and taking immediate action to stop the distribution of any unauthorized posters and to have those posters currently in the marketplace recalled," it had said.

Fox Searchlight is distributing 12 Years A Slave in North America.

The Steve McQueen-directed movie has been nominated for a slew of key honors this awards season, including seven Golden Globes and four SAG honors.

Twitter: @georgszalai