Beauty and the Beast shelved in Malaysia despite axing of 'gay moment'

Josh Gad as LeFou in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast
Josh Gad as LeFou in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast Credit: Disney

Walt Disney has shelved the release of its new movie Beauty and the Beast in mainly Muslim Malaysia, even though film censors said on Tuesday it had been approved with a minor cut involving a "gay moment".

The country's two main cinema chains said the movie, due for to begin screening on Thursday, has been postponed indefinitely. No reason was given.

Film Censorship Board chairman Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid said he did not know why the film was postponed as was been approved by the board after a minor gay scene was axed. He said scenes promoting homosexuality were forbidden and that the film was given a P13 rating, which requires parental guidance for children under 13 years of age.

"We have approved it but there is a minor cut involving a gay moment. It is only one short scene but it is inappropriate because many children will be watching this movie," Abdul Halim told The Associated Press.

He said there was no appeal from Disney about the decision to cut the gay scene.

Beauty and the Beast: Josh Gad as Lefou Watch | Beauty and the Beast: Josh Gad as Lefou
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Disney officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Star English-language newspaper cited the Disney company as saying the movie was postponed for an "internal review."

The film's characters include manservant LeFou, who plays the sidekick to the story's villain Gaston, and, according to director Bill Condon, "is confused about his sexuality." Condon has described a brief scene as a "gay moment."

Russia, where a controversial "gay propaganda" ban is in place, last week approved the movie but banned children under 16 from watching it.

Malaysia's censors in 2010 loosened decades of restrictions on sexual and religious content in movies, but still kept a tight leash on tiny bikinis, kisses and passionate hugs. The new rules allowed depiction of gay characters, but only if they show repentance or are portrayed in a negative light. Sodomy, even if consensual, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and whipping in Malaysia

Beauty and the Beast, which stars Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles,  is released in the UK on March 17.