Josh Gad as LeFou, left, and Luke Evans as Gaston in the remake of 'Beauty and the Beast.'(Photo: Walt Disney Studios)
The backlash over a gay character appearing in Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast is rising, putting an Alabama theater and Russian government officials on common ground.
A Henagar, Ala., drive-in has canceled plans to screen Beauty, while the Russian government is considering banning the film following revelations that the character LeFou, played by Josh Gad, is gay.
Representatives of the Henagar Drive-In announced Thursday on Facebook that the theater won't show Beauty when it's released March 17 because Disney is "premiering their first homosexual character."
"When companies continually force their views on us, we need to take a stand. We all make choices and I am making mine," the unsigned Facebook post says. "If I can't sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me, then we have no business showing it. I know there will be some that do not agree with this decision. That's fine. We are first and foremost Christians. We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches."
Luke Evans (left) stars as the macho villain Gaston and Josh Gad is his sidekick LeFou in 'Beauty and the Beast.' (Photo: Laurie Sparham)
The post added that the theater would continue to show "wholesome" movies so patrons would not worry "about sex, nudity, homosexuality and foul language."
In response to the Alabama theater's decision, Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon told USA TODAY that outcry over the first gay character in a Disney movie is “overblown."
“My message is: This is a movie for everyone. I’m sad about that theater but there are 4,000 theaters showing the movie," Condon said Friday. "I hope everybody moves past that and just goes to take pleasure in what we made.”
Director Bill Condon attends the world premiere of Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast.' (Photo: VALERIE MACON, AFP/Getty Images)
On Saturday, reports emerged of Russia's displeasure over the character. Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said the film would be screened prior to its release there and action would be taken if the content breached the country's internationally condemned law prohibiting the spreading of "gay propaganda" among minors, the BBC reported Saturday.
"As soon as we get a copy of the film with relevant paperwork for distribution, we will consider it according to the law," Medinsky said.
Disney officials did not respond Saturday to requests for comment.
Condon told gay British magazine Attitude that the character LeFou, played by Gad, will explore his sexuality in what Attitude calls a "small but significant subplot." LeFou is the sidekick of the film's villain Gaston (Luke Evans).
Luke Evans and Josh Gad perform at the world premiere of Disney's live-action 'Beauty and the Beast.' (Photo: Jesse Grant, Getty Images for Disney)
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” Condon said in the interview. “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
At the Los Angeles premiere of Beauty and the Beast,Gad told USA TODAY that he was "really proud" to play LeFou.
"What was most important to me was taking a character that is wonderful and so iconic, but is defined by cartoon conceits in the (original) movie ... and expanding on that, giving him dimension, making him human," Gad said.
Contributing: Andrea Mandell and Carly Mallenbaum