Why 'Space Jam: A New Legacy' ditched Pepé Le Pew but kept Speedy Gonzalez

Space Jam: A New Legacy director Malcolm D. Lee and star Gabriel Iglesias (the voice of Speedy Gonzalez) talk about the challenges of adapting new characters for a modern era.

Video Transcript

- What's happening bro?

[GUN FIRING]

[SPANISH SPEECH]

ETHAN ALTER: Some controversy earlier this year when it turned out that Pepé Le Pew was cut from "Space Jam 2." What was the decision process behind that? Can you talk a little bit about how that came about?

MALCOM D. LEE: Well, you know, number one, the incident or the scene in question was something that was shot before my time on the movie and it didn't work for the movie. We tried to place Pepé on a couple of places. The jokes never really landed for us, for him. And so, you know, we had a limited time of, you know, the amount of Tunes we could work with. So, you know, Pepé was casualty.

ETHAN ALTER: I mean, there was some talk at the time that it might have been because he was a controversial character and, you know-- Was that part of your issue?

MALCOM D. LEE: That has nothing to do with what we did.

ETHAN ALTER: You know Gabriel Iglesias put out his own tweet about Speedy Gonzales and worrying whether he'd be a victim of cancel culture. Was that ever a concern? Did you talk to him about it how that would happen?

MALCOM D. LEE: No. Listen. You know, Gabriel, you know, Fluffy, who I love, he's hysterical, you know? He's one of the funniest people on the planet. He embraced Speedy and like, you know, like gave us like some great things to work with. And no, we never cut anything out for him as well. People love Speedy Gonzales.

ETHAN ALTER: I have to ask, there was some controversy earlier this year when it was revealed that Pepé Le Pew was cut from "Space Jam 2." At that point, you sent out a tweet about Speedy and worrying about will cancel culture cancel Speedy. Were you worried about that at the time? Were you legitimately concerned about getting cut out?

GABRIEL IGLESIAS: Yes! Because you know what, I had just gotten the part and I'm like, are you kidding me? I just got this job. And now trying to take it away? The problem is, is that they try to lump the two characters together. And I was like not having it. So I stood up for the character and I said, no, cancel culture. I don't think so.

And, you know, it made sense. I'm like, if a Mexican is not offended by this Mexican character, why should you be? Why should you have a problem with it? Speedy Gonzales was a hero in my house, he's still a hero in my house. I grew up with him and I'm excited and honored at the fact that I get to be the first Mexican to voice Speedy Gonzalez.

Yeah. And when given the opportunity, they actually said, hey, how do you feel about the voice? Do you think it's too stereotypical or do you want to change it? Knowing that I had the opportunity to change that voice and put an end to the way he sounded, that's a lot of pressure on my part and I'm like, you know what, I appreciate the fact that they would allow me to use my real speaking voice. I said, but no. I think Speedy Gonzales needs to sound like Speedy Gonzalez.

And they said, you don't think it's too stereotypical? I said, you have not been to my house. Trust me, you're good. And then they said, well, can you do it? And then that's when we said, all right. Let's play. And next thing I know, I got the mic in my face, and I went from this to, Ola amigos. I'm a Speedy Gonzalez, the fastest mouse in all Mexico. Ariba! [SPEAKING SPANISH]

And they freaked out. They said, that was good. I said, Yeah, that was good. I do this for a living. And so I says, you know what, don't think that just because I'm Mexican, I can only voice the Mexican. I says, given the opportunity, I can do the entire film by myself.

I says, you want Marvin the Martian? Oh my! My modulator. You want Yosemite Sam? Hey there, rabbit. You want Bugs Bunny? What's Up Doc? You want Porky Pig? [STAMMERING] You get the point? I says, you can fire everyone right now. I will do the whole movie for half. Just give me a good parking.

ETHAN ALTER: Because you did take aim at a cancel culture in that tweet. Is that something you deal with as a comedian? Like, do you really feel--

GABRIEL IGLESIAS: All the time. All the time. And I think it's more so through social media than anything else. Because what I say it on stage, I think-- You know, when fans come out and see my show, they know where my head and my heart is at, for the most part, unless it's a new fan. You know what I mean?

But for the most part, everybody comes out, they know that I'm going to tell stories, I'm going to talk about myself, my friends, my family. And however they interpret it, that's on them. Because I'm being very clear what my show is about. And I tell it from the get.

I'm very supportive. I think everyone should have equal rights and have the right to be happy or as miserable as they want, you know? I support all, I love all. So if you hear that and you still get offended, then you are the problem. Not me.

ETHAN ALTER: What did that whole experience teach you about the way we relate to these older characters now? I mean, some-- As times have changed, so looking back at characters like Pepé and Speedy, how do you sort of evaluate them through a modern lens, especially when you're making a contemporary movie?

MALCOM D. LEE: I think people have their own relationship with these characters, right? And I think that sometimes things do have to evolve, you know? I mean, there were lots of racist things about the Bugs Bunny thing, you know? But times have changed. You have to adapt with the times. So I mean, you know, it's a hard thing to quantify. You're just trying to make the best movie you can and make sure that people enjoy.

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