Benedict Cumberbatch has said it is an “expected disappointment” that his new Doctor Strange film will not screen in Saudi Arabia because of LGBTQ references.
The actor criticised “repressive regimes” for their “lack of tolerance” and said it is proof of the importance of including characters from different backgrounds.
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness introduces the comic book character America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez, who is gay.
Homosexuality is illegal across the Gulf and films that feature LGBTQ references often fail to get past censors.
Cumberbatch told the PA news agency: “It’s difficult not to become emotional about it, to be honest. But it is, I’m afraid, an expected disappointment.
“We’ve come to know from those repressive regimes that their lack of tolerance is exclusionary to people who deserve to be not only included but celebrated for who they are, and made to feel a part of a society and a culture and not punished for their sexuality.
“It feels truly out of step with everything that we’ve experienced as a species, let alone where we’re at globally as a culture.
“But frankly, it’s just even more reason why this isn’t tokenism to include an LGBTQ+ community member.
“This character is from the comics, it’s not something we’ve created for the sake of diversity. We’ve included her because of how awesome she is as a character. And that’s just one aspect of her character. And that’s all it should be.
“But sadly, it’s also now politically very charged, and I wish it wasn’t, I wish it was … a normalised conversation about this where it wasn’t an issue, but it’s not so we still have to fight, we still have to push for inclusion and equality and I’m very glad in a small way but on a very big canvas, Marvel and Disney are doing that.”
His co-star Elizabeth Olsen added: “America Chavez is a character that’s in the comics, and so we’re just representing the comics, honestly, and representing inclusion.
“I think it’s too bad for the fans that are in other countries and won’t be able to see and I hope that they find ways to see it.
“We’re not in control of that as actors, or even people higher up from us. So it’s definitely disappointing for fans, but I also am proud to be a part of a film that represents and stands for inclusion and diversity.”
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is released in UK cinemas on May 5.