If you didn’t know, a sequel to the 2000 stop-motion classic Chicken Run is coming to Netflix.
By all reports from Netflix and producers, and much to the joy of fans, the sequel was going to hold onto as many of the original cast as possible – except for Mel Gibson (Rocky) and the late Benjamin Withrow (Fowler).
That was until one of the lead voice stars of – perhaps the voice of the movie – Julia Sawalha, who voiced heroine Ginger in the original, also got the chop. The reason? She sounds ‘too old’ to play a clay chook.
Julia Sawalha getting axed from Chicken Run 2 for being too old? The disrespect pic.twitter.com/waBgV52tHn
— michaela 🌙 (@MichaelaBarton_) July 9, 2020
Sawalha has published an open letter on social media, accusing the producers of ageism. She says she was “devastated and furious” to be told via email from her agent that she wouldn’t be cast in the follow-up film.
“The reason they gave is that my voice now sounds ‘too old’ and they want a younger actress to reprise the role,” said the 51-year-old actress.
“Usually in these circumstances, an actress would be given the chance to do a voice test in order to determine the suitability of their pitch and tone, I however was not given this opportunity.”
In the letter, she attached a link to her own voice test that she sent to the producers to prove her voice was up to scratch and though one of “the creatives” agreed her voice didn’t sound older they will still be re-casting Ginger.
She was informed she wasn’t coming back the day before Gibson’s (Rocky) re-casting was announced. The excuse creatives gave was also that his voice is “too old” (true), but Sawalha feels she’s been “fobbed off with the same excuse”. And it’s true, it all does seem mighty convenient.
“If they will be using some of the original cast members…let’s be frank, I feel I have been unfairly dismissed,” she wrote.
“I feel totally powerless, something in all of this doesn’t quite ring true. I trust my instincts and they are waving red flags.”
Those red flags? #ageism, she tweeted.
— Julia Sawalha (@JuliaSawalha1) July 9, 2020
The Decision Has Seriously Ruffled Fans’ Feathers.
Chicken Run fans were similarly outraged by the decision to axe, arguably, the defining character (and voice) of the most successful stop-motion movie of all-time.
julia sawalha is being replaced in the chicken run sequel because her voice apparently sounds too old, who had “hollywood ageism against stop-motion chickens” on their 2020 bingo card
— Gráinne O’Hare (@spacedolphin__) July 10, 2020
Genuinely the thing that excited me most about Chicken Run 2 was having Ginger back as before. A big global film event led by Julia Sawalha (and Jane Horrocks et al) would feel true to the spirit of Aardman and the original film. 🐓
— Gareth King (@_garethking) July 10, 2020
Julia Sawalha IS Ginger. To say she should be recast purely based on her being 20 years older than she was in a film she made 20 years ago is, honestly, disgusting, especially when she actually still sounds the same….. https://t.co/6aoojxqnbK
— Em @Verbal Diorama (@VerbalDiorama) July 9, 2020
How can you be too old to voice a plasticine hen? Surely another actress will not be any better at doing a young Julia Sawalha voice than @JuliaSawalha1 herself? #ChickenRun2 pic.twitter.com/H2c940K3DG
— Hun-derrated (@Hun_derrated) July 10, 2020
Some fans pointed out the suspicious convenience of using the ‘too old’ excuse to re-cast Gibson (who is an obvious re-cast whether he’s old or not) and Sawalha. It’s not ageism, some say, but rather an excuse to get out of taking a stance on the Gibson’s dismissal by ditching the OG Ginger, too.
Make firing a man look fair by firing the lead female, too. Yes, that’s logical.
So @aardman HAD TO BE PRESSURED to drop Mel Gibson because of his past problematic behaviours. BUT THEN they independently choose to drop Julia Sawalha because she’s ‘too old’. This is the world that women are living in and its foul. #ChickenRun2
— jack (@J_acks0n) July 10, 2020
Julia Sawalha not being cast in Chicken Run 2 is definitely unfair, but I’m pondering: rather than actual ageism, is it not likely that they didn’t want to recast Mel Gibson (for obvious reasons), used “too old” as the excuse and then had to widen that excuse to cover tracks?
— Patrick Harley (@DeadbeatPad) July 10, 2020
Toy Story went over 2 decades with the same cast, do better.
— jack (@J_acks0n) July 10, 2020
Fans are so passionate, they’ve kicked off a petition to reinstate Julia as Ginger. We love to see it.
Yes, it’s just a movie, but it’s a very simple display of how disposable women are in Hollywood. Sawalha has proven that her voice has barely (if at all) changed in 20 years. Besides, wouldn’t you want her to sound a little older if it’s set in the future? The excuses don’t add up. Sounds like sexism to me.
The sequel – due to begin production in 2021 with Sam Fell (of Flushed Away) directing – is set to pick up on the human-free island the chooks escaped to. But, when a new threat emerges, Ginger (now a mother to her and Rocky’s daughter, Molly) must get the gang back in action.
Sounds wild. But what’s wilder is that ageism (or sexism, however we want to flip it) has prevented a talented actress from playing a clay chook. I repeat, a clay f’n chook.
Seems like like the creators have a bit of work to do to get fans back on side after sending the OG voice of ginger to the chopping block.
Image Sources: Aardman Productions (Twitter).