Following the release of the debut trailer for his upcoming crime-thriller film The Tax Collector, director David Ayer has been accused of “brownfacing” after casting actor Shia LaBeouf as one of the film’s characters.
After the trailer’s release, multiple Twitter users questioned Ayer’s decision to cast LaBeouf in the role.
“Tell all the kids how you’re Hollywood’s top cholo auteur, and your pretzel reasons Shia Lebeouf (sic) is sort of kind of playing a weird movie cholo in a cop movie and how all of this isn’t really #brownfacing,” one user wrote on the social media platform hours after the trailer’s worldwide premiere.
“You just told them,” Ayers, 52, tweeted in response. “It ain’t a cop movie. And Shia is playing something very specific. Not brownface.”
The backlash was seemingly prompted after viewers noticed that The Tax Collector’s trailer highlights LaBeouf’s appearance in the film specifically, as opposed to any of the other actors — who, for the most part, are Latin American.
Though LaBeouf, 34, was given the spotlight in the two-minute, 20-second teaser, actor Bobby Soto actually holds the leading role, according to Ayer.
When asked why he “(centred) a white person in a story that capitalizes on Latino culture,” Ayer tweeted: “Respectfully, I didn’t.”
“Bobby Soto is the lead,” he said. “Shia has a supporting role. He’s the only non-POC cast member.”
“Hey, really important question that I think you should answer publicly in 2020,” another user wrote in response to the trailer.
“Is Shia Lebouf (sic) playing a Latino character in Tax Collector? If so, why didn’t you cast a Latin actor?” the Twitter user asked the Suicide Squad director.
“Really important answer,” Ayers, 52, tweeted in response. “Shia is playing a white boy who grew up in the hood. This is a Jewish dude playing a white character. Also the only white dude in the movie.”
Ayer faced similar criticism about casting for his 2012 thriller End of Watch. The movie, which starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, was criticized for almost exclusively depicting Black and Latinx criminals, according to NME.
LaBeouf has not publicly addressed the backlash as of this writing.
As described in the trailer’s description on YouTube, The Tax Collector follows two tax collectors — Soto (who plays David) and LaBeouf (Creeper) — who work under the wing of a crime boss by the name of Wizard.
Upon the unexpected return of Wizard’s rival from Mexico, their business is upended. As a result, David’s new priority becomes protecting his family.
The upcoming action film also features actors George Lopez and Cinthya Carmona, among many others.
The Tax Collector is currently scheduled for a North America-wide release on Aug. 7.
The debut trailer can be seen in the video above.