top of page

“To Be in Hollywood Is to Be Gaslit”: Justin Simien Levels Up With Disney’s ‘Haunted Mansion’

“Too Black” or “too queer” for some and not enough for others, the ‘Dear White People’ filmmaker gets real on those Bob Iger comments, streaming budgets and his cast not being able to promote alongside him: “This is going to hurt.”

Filmmaker Justin Simien was the main attraction at the July 15 red carpet premiere of his latest effort, The Haunted Mansion. But it wasn’t because he arrived in a floor-length cape, his tribute to the movie’s costume designer. It was because the hours-old SAG-AFTRA strike prevented his starry cast — LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish and Jamie Lee Curtis among them — from joining. “‘Bittersweet’ is probably the best word for it,” the 40-year-old director explains two days later in his modest Los Angeles office. “I’m glad we got to show the movie [out July 28] — but with the strike and the Bob Iger comments, I feel like I crash-landed into [the event].”

Simien, like so many in Hollywood, is playing professional Whac-a-Mole this summer. Paramount TV suspended his Culture Machine shingle’s overall deal in May because of the stalemate between the studios and the WGA. He launched a GoFundMe to keep the lights on but still only expects his six-person team can stay intact through the fall if nothing changes.


bottom of page