Justin Theroux: Accusation of Transphobia in Zoolander 2 ‘Hurts My Feelings’

Photo: Getty Images, Paramount Pictures

Justin Theroux's screenplay is causing controversy again. The Leftovers star is one of the scriptwriters for the heavily awaited Zoolander 2, and like one of his previous films, Tropic Thunder, there's a call for a boycott before the film has been released in theaters. “I don’t even know what to make of it, because it hurts my feelings in a way. I take great care in the jokes I write, and the umbrage being taken is out of the context of the scene," Theroux told the Wrap. "I wish people would see the movie first."

The scene in question comes from the full-length trailer, which shows Benedict Cumberbatch as the hot, new model named All. In the trailer, Ben Stiller's Derek Zoolander asks, "Are you like a male model or female model?" All replies, "All is all." Protesters allege that the character and scene are offensive to trans people and that it is the equivalent of "blackface." The petition reads, "Cumberbatch’s character is clearly portrayed as an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals."

This isn't the first time that Theroux's script has faced a prerelease boycott. His screenplay for Tropic Thunder (which he wrote with Stiller and Etan Cohen) included Robert Downey Jr. in blackface and prompted a boycott from disability groups for its use of the word retard. "Satire is a thing that points out the idiots, and we went through it on Tropic Thunder with the ‘R’ word,” Theroux said. “The goal was not to mock or be cruel to the mentally challenged, but exalt in the stupidity of people who use that word. I’m all for letting words be ugly when the target is correct. With social media and all the rest of it, people’s issues need to be heard … at the end of the day people are looking for bandwidth. People are looking for places to inject their voice. But our target is not, and never was, to disenfranchise anyone.”