Children in Russia will not be able to see the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast after the country’s Culture Ministry placed a 16+ rating on the film because it features a gay character.
According to the Associated Press, the Russian Culture Ministry placed the restrictive rating on the film after lawmaker Vitaly Milonov had petitioned for the film to be banned outright in the country.
Milonov reportedly took exception to the inclusion of the character LeFou (Josh Gad), who in the updated film is suggested to have a romantic interest in his friend and the film’s villain, Gaston (Luke Evans).
Milonov said the film and the character represent “overt and shameless propaganda of sin and sexual perversion under the guise of a fairy tale.”
In an interview with Attitude magazine this week, director Bill Condon described the remake of the 1991 animated classic as containing the first-ever “exclusively gay moment” in a Disney film.
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” Condon said. “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh [Gad] makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its pay-off at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
After his original comments made international headlines, Condon told ScreenCrush in a follow-up interview that the controversy surrounding the film’s gay content is “overblown.”
“Because it’s just this — it’s part of just what we had fun with,” Condon said. “I love the way it plays pure when people don’t know and it comes as a nice surprise.”
According to the Wrap, Russia’s move to place the restrictive rating on the film likely won’t have a major impact on its international box office prospects. The outlet reported that grosses from Russian box office for two of its recent hits, The Jungle Book and Zootopia, accounted for just three and five percent of the films’ total international grosses, respectively.
Beauty and the Beast opens in the U.S. on March 17.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum