A group of American Indian actors walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie this week over complaints about stereotypes, offensive names and scenes they say disrespected Native American religious practices.
Actor Loren Anthony told The Associated Press on Thursday that he and eight others quit the production of the satirical Western The Ridiculous Six after producers ignored their concerns about its portrayal of Apache culture and the inappropriate use of props.
Anthony said the script included offensive names for Native American female characters and a scene where a Native American woman urinated while smoking a peace pipe. Another scene used chicken feathers on teepees, he said.
Title 'ridiculous' for a reason
"Right from the get-go, it didn't feel right. But we it let it go," said Anthony, a Navajo actor who started work as an extra on the movie Monday. "Once we found out more about the script, we felt it was totally disrespectful to elders and Native women."
The Ridiculous Six is produced by Sandler and Allen Covert and is slated for a Netflix-only release. Production began this month in Santa Fe and elsewhere in northern New Mexico.
The film is a comedy designed to lampoon stereotypes, Netflix said.
"The movie has `ridiculous' in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous," a company statement released by Netflix said. "It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke."
A spokesman for Sandler's Manchester, New Hampshire-based production company, Happy Madison Productions, didn't immediately return a phone message.
Goldie Tom, another extra who departed the set Wednesday, said producers told the group to leave if they felt offended and that script changes were not up for debate.
"This just shows that Hollywood has not changed at all," Tom said.
She added the production had a number of non-Native American actors portraying American Indians, a long-standing complaint about the movie industry.
The actors said a Native American consultant hired by the production also walked off the set.
The New Mexico Film Office said Thursday the dispute was a First Amendment issue and the office had no say over the movie's content.
"As long as the production meets the requirements in the film credit statute, there is nothing prohibiting them from filming in New Mexico and receiving the rebate," the office said in a statement.
Culture 'no joking matter'
Outgoing Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly lauded the extras' decision.
"Our Native American culture and tradition is no joking matter," Shelly said. "I applaud these Navajo actors for their courage and conviction to walk off the set in protest."
David Hill, 74, a Choctaw actor from Oklahoma who left the set, said he thought the film industry was heading toward better portrayal of American Indians before this experience.
"Over the years, we have seen change. Then this," Hill said. "We told them, `Our dignity is not for sale."'