Pepé Le Pew Will Not Be Appearing in Space Jam: A New Legacy
Looney Tunes character Pepé Le Pew appeared in 1996’s Space Jam but has reportedly been cut from the sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy, according to Deadline. The decision was made after Malcolm D. Lee took over directing duties in 2019. After New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow went viral on Twitter over the weekend calling out the controversial character, the outlet learned that a scene between Pepé Le Pew and Greice Santo (Jane the Virgin) was shot by the movie’s previous director, Terence Nance, but had been left on the cutting room floor by Lee long before Blow’s Tweets. The outlet also confirms that sources who saw a rough cut of the film three months ago didn’t see a cameo from the animated skunk, and they also described what the cut scene was:
“Pepe was set to appear in a black-and-white Casablanca-like Rick’s Cafe sequence. Pepe, playing a bartender, starts hitting on a woman at the bar played by Santo. He begins kissing her arm, which she pulls back, then slamming Pepe into the chair next to hers. She then pours her drink on Pepe, and slaps him hard, sending him spinning in a stool, which is then stopped by LeBron James’ hand. James and Bugs Bunny are looking for Lola, and Pepe knows her whereabouts. Pepe then tells the guys that Penelope cat has filed a restraining order against him. James makes a remark in the script that Pepe can’t grab other Tunes without their consent.”
A spokesperson for Santo revealed to Deadline that the actress was upset about the cut scene: “This was such a big deal for Greice to be in this movie. Even though Pepe is a cartoon character, if anyone was going to slap a sexual harasser like him, Greice wished it would be her. Now the scene is cut, and she doesn’t have that power to influence the world through younger generations who’ll be watching Space Jam 2, to let younger girls and younger boys know that Pepe’s behavior is unacceptable.”
As far as the weekend discourse over Pepé Le Pew, Blow accused the cartoon character of adding to rape culture and listed off examples (see below) along with a video. Blow added that these animated sequences with Pepé Le Pew aggressively grabbing and kissing the unwilling cartoon cat “helped teach boys that ‘no’ didn’t really mean no, that it was a part of ‘the game’, the starting line of a power struggle. It taught overcoming a woman’s strenuous, even physical objections, was normal, adorable, funny. They didn’t even give the woman the ability to SPEAK.”
Space Jam: A New Legacy stars LeBron James instead of Michael Jordan with Black Panther director Ryan Coogler onboard to produce. Terence Nance (Random Acts of Flyness, The Oversimplification of Her Beauty) was set to direct instead of Justin Lin (Fast & Furious franchise), who was one of the directors originally attached to the project, but after some creative differences between the studio and producers and Nance on the vision for the film, they came to an amicable split and Malcolm D. Lee signed on to direct.
Though the long-awaited sequel won’t feature Steph Curry, Kevin Durant or James Harden, the film has landed an impressive roster so far with the Portland Trailblazers’ Damian Lillard, New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, and Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson. Also joining the squad are Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi and Los Angeles Sparks’ siblings Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, with Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead) set to portray James’ wife, and Don Cheadle (Avengers: Endgame).
In the original, Michael Jordan teamed up with Looney Tunes characters to battle a group of animated aliens on the court. Space Jam went on to gross $230 million worldwide and besides Jordan, included some of the NBA’s biggest stars like Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing. Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes will now team with James on the court to battle an unknown entity.