‘Haunted Mansion’ Director Justin Simien Calls Out Hypocrisy of Those Criticizing His Film Promotion During Strike (Video)

“There’s a natural inclination to celebrate writer-directors who champion their movies filled with white stars,” the director tells TheWrap

“Haunted Mansion” director Justin Simien called out the hypocrisy of people that have criticized him for promoting the Disney film during the ongoing WGA and SGA strikes.

Simien, who is both a writer and director but did not write “Haunted Mansion,” attended the film’s premiere at Disneyland last Saturday, just one day after the SAG strike was authorized.

On Thursday, Simien reposted a video from Tiktok user @foreveralphanso on his Instagram account. In the video, @foreveralphanso outlined the reasons why the backlash to Simien attending the premiere was hypocritical or outright “just wrong.”

“A lot of people are attacking Justin Simien, the director of ‘Disney’s Haunted Mansion’, after he went to the Disney premiere. He only directed the movie. He did not write it and he did not star in the movie. He’s being labeled as a scab, people are saying he’s crossing the picket line,” @foreveralphonso said.

“How are we attacking this man, Justin Simien, a director of color, but Greta Gerwig gets a pass?” the Tiktoker asked, referring to the “Barbie” filmmaker who co-wrote and directed her film and is promoting it. “Now I’m not saying I want people to attack her, but if you’re going to try and hold this man accountable, hold her accountable too.”

“Attacking someone and accusing them without even knowing what their contractual agreements are is just wrong,” he concluded. “Please, let stop.”

In the caption of the post, Simien simply wrote, “No shade to Greta [Gerwig]… or Christopher [Nolan] or Wes [Anderson], referring to the Caucasian directors of “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” and “Asteroid City,” respectively.

Niecy Nash Betts, who does not appear in “Haunted Mansion,” replied, “SMH [monocle emoji] is definitely giving ‘keep the same energy’ Greta is promoting right now on @goodmorningamerica.” [Editors note: Gerwig did promote “Barbie” on the ABC morning show Thursday.]

Rosario Dawson, who does star in “Haunted Mansion,” replied with a string of fire emojis. Under the SAG strike agreement, she and other actors cannot talk about the film.

“A Black Lady Sketch” show actress Robin Thede, who played Denise in Simien’s horror series “Bad Hair,” wrote “WE GOT YOUR BACK JUSTIN!!”

Earlier this week, Simien defended attending the film’s premiere at Disneyland last Saturday amid the ongoing WGA and SAG strikes, saying he was allowed to do so and praising the work of those who could not attend.

“First of all, I had to check in with everybody before doing anything, I was not necessarily inclined to do a bunch of press,” Simien told TheWrap on the Monday after the weekend event. “But I feel like I can be really effective in the overall labor goal. If we can get people to see this movie, and understand how much passion went into it.”

“You know, one of the things that the SAG captains have said is, this is a strike from the actors. We do not want a general strike. We want people to keep seeing the work,” the director added, echoing the sentiment from many actors who have stressed they’re not asking audiences to boycott new films or TV shows.

“And this is a movie that I think gets buried if people aren’t out in front of it, talking about it, and I am absolutely the least famous person involved. But I’m allowed to do so. And you know, I know not everyone’s happy about it, and I know what it might even look like, but it’s not my first rodeo trying to push for political action within the industry. Sometimes your part is inside the machine. That’s my part today.”

In that interview, Simien also called out the discrepancies between the marketing of “Haunted Mansion” versus other recent releases.

When asked about promoting a film with primarily minority leads, Simien responded: “Look at the movies that everyone is hyped about right now. I’m not gonna say anything by name, and I have no shade against these movies. But look at the faces that are everywhere. Those are white faces. And there’s a natural inclination to celebrate writer-directors who champion their movies filled with white stars, that isn’t necessarily there for people like me, and people like [writer] Katie [Dippold], and people like [lead] LaKeith [Stanfield], and we have to talk about it. I was not built to sort of just stay silent in a moment where that silence means my erasure — Sorry, not gonna do it! So yeah, that’s definitely, it feels like the right thing to do right now and to just take the licks, I mean, it’s not the first rodeo, like I said.”

“Haunted Mansion” opens in theaters on July 28.

Kristen Lopez contributed to this report.