‘West Side Story’ Banned in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Over LGBTQ Character Played by Nonbinary Actor

Other Middle East nations expected to play Steven Spielberg film after 20th Century Studios declined to make requested cuts

west side story
Iris Menas as Anybodys (far left) in "West Side Story" (Twentieth Century Studios)

Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” will not screen in the Middle East nations of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as other countries, TheWrap has confirmed.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait both did not grant the film a release certificate, while local censors in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had requested cuts that Disney and 20th Century Studios opted not to make, an individual with knowledge said, and the film will not be released to those markets.

However, the studio expects the film to be released in other Middle Eastern nations.

While no specific reason was given for why “West Side Story” was banned, Spielberg’s remake of the movie musical classic includes a character named Anybodys portrayed by nonbinary actor Iris Menas, and the teenage character in the new version is written as a transgender or nonbinary person.

Homosexuality is officially illegal in Saudi Arabia, and LGBTQ issues in films have often been an issue for censors in the region. Specifically, the ban of “West Side Story” comes on the heels of Saudi Arabia also blocking the release of Marvel’s “Eternals,” which also featured a gay superhero character.

“West Side Story” was meant to open in Saudi Arabia on December 9, and it will open wide in North America on December 10.