At least 12 Native American actors reportedly walked off of the set of Adam Sandler’s new film The Ridiculous 6 over an insulting, misrepresentative script. Largely from the Navajo people, the cast members took offense at “stereotypical” lines about women, elders, and a misrepresentation of Apache culture.
“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” Navajo Nation tribal member Loren Anthony told the Indian Country Today Media Network. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s Breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”
Anthony, who also featured in Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger, also mentioned a character named No Bra, a scene with an actress as an Apache woman squatting and peeing with a peace pipe in her mouth, and teepee feathers “inappropriately positioned.”
Apparently a spoof of The Magnificent Seven, the film is the first in Sandler’s landmark four picture deal with Netflix. Written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy, the movie also features Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Will Forte, Taylor Lautner, Terry Crews, David Spade, Danny Trejo, Jon Lovitz, Vanilla Ice, and loads of other cameos. Anthony said he was initially hesitant to join the cast, but was convinced when he was told a cultural consultant had been hired. “Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set.”
Former Dartmouth film student Allison Young, also Navajo, said the director (Frank Coraci) and producers blatantly disrespected the Native actors. “We talked to the producers about our concerns,” she said. “They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’ I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way.”
In a statement, Netflix essentially dismissed the entire ordeal, saying, “The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous. 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.”
David Hill, a 74-year-old Choctaw film veteran, related the filmmakers’ response to their complaints to recent controversy in the NFL. “They were bringing up those same old arguments that Dan Snyder uses in defending the Redskins. But let me tell you, our dignity is not for sale. It is a real shame because a lot of people probably stay because they need a job.”
The producers apparently asked the angry actors and the consultant to return to the set, and Hill said he’s willing to return if changes are made. “I hope they will listen to us. We understand this is a comedy, we understand this is humor, but we won’t tolerate disrespect. I told the director if he had talked to a native woman the way they were talked to in this movie — I said I would knock his ass out.”