Ordinarily, a retread of a remake of a mid-80s action-horror franchise would not become a hot socio-political topic of conversation. But the walls are very thin in media these days, so Fox recently found itself in the crosshairs of intense criticism.
When it was announced that Fox was planning to debut “The Predator” at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, someone looked at the cast and said, “What just a minute here!”
As it turns out, an actor on that film, Steven Wilder Striegel, is a registered sex offender. The conviction came after Striegel plead guilty to “attempting to entice a 14-year-old female into a sexual relationship.” Subsequently, he served time in jail, yet he still managed to find work in Hollywood, mainly being cast by director Shane Black, who’s a friend of Striegel. When Black was challenged on why he cast the convicted sex offender in movies like Iron Man 3 and The Predator, Black said, “I chose to help a friend… I can understand others might disapprove… as his conviction was not to be taken lightly.”
It has been reported that Fox was told about Striegel’s background by actress Olivia Munn, who stars in The Predator, and had a scene with Striegel. When the public learned about this, the pressure was on for Fox to act. The company says it removed the only scene featuring Striegel as soon as they learned of his background.
“Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired… Several weeks ago, when the studio learned the details, his one scene in the film was removed within 24 hours.”
That fast action and announcement did not quiet the critics, though, so Fox has released another statement, hours before the film was expected to premier in Toronto, once again explaining that they didn’t know about Striegel’s past and that his scene had been removed. While most accepted this explanation, some questioned why Fox didn’t know about the criminal conviction, when both the director and at least one of the actors knew.
Fox effectively responded to this question by explaining that there are specific legal limitations on running background checks on actors. They didn’t know, because they couldn’t ask.
All in all, Fox handled this well. They took quick action when they learned of the issue, and they made a very public statement about the situation and their decision. Better still, the company was ready for the inevitable follow up – and this is where a lot of brands lose the narrative and get tripped up. When asked why they didn’t know about the actor’s prior conviction, Fox immediately said they couldn’t know, because it was illegal for them to ask those kinds of questions past a certain extent. This puts the responsibility on the law and not the brand in question, distancing Fox from the criticism.