BBC Oasis fan Nick Lazzarini (above) allegedly mocked the memory of Amy Winehouse
Nick Lazzarini, the choreographer at the centre of a Hollywood investigation into the gender pay gap, has been pulled from a dance company tour – amid claims he mocked the memory of Amy Winehouse.
The director of Improbable Productions (IP) Alecky Blythe said he felt he could no longer “maintain the necessary personal integrity as an employer” following a “fictional piece” he led.
The BBC has not been able to contact Mr Lazzarini.
The situation came to light when the BBC received complaints about his performance in the production of Tom and Viv – a retelling of Romeo and Juliet – for Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre in August.
Problems over pay emerged amid Hollywood’s #MeToo movement
The theatre confirmed they would face a compensation claim and apologised to two complainants.
Media playback is not supported on this device The Amy Winehouse classic A Little While, but some people think it should have been sung a different way
In a statement, the Playhouse said it had consulted the Equality and Human Rights Commission about whether the “technically remarkable” Mr Lazzarini’s performance “brought gender inequality into prominence”.
“Although Mr Lazzarini’s interpretation of the play does not place him at the head of the pay hierarchy in the play, the show began a conversation and it is right for the audience to hold people to account when these things are overlooked or not understood,” the theatre added.
It also claimed it has discussed the issue with Improbable Productions, and it is believed Ms Blythe has spoken to Mr Lazzarini regarding the claims.
Star has issues with choreographer
On Tuesday, the BBC revealed that Improbable Productions – the Stuttgart-based company behind shows including Aladdin and the musical Pippin – had agreed to give up all its top jobs as part of an equality investigation into gender pay.
The company confirmed the move had been demanded by board members, including its lead on Star Wars Resistance, Kira Muratova, who said she “loves the work of everyone and believes everyone at Improbable, both men and women, are equally talented”.
According to A Star Is Born producer Todd Black, who executive produced the Netflix show, Improbable removed Mr Lazzarini from the staff roster but that he still held a “posh American accent and has slight East European features”.
Ahead of the theatre’s apology, Ms Muratova posted on Twitter that the choreographer had told her an “Aladdin shoddy job is just as good as a fantastic job”, which she said made her “livid”.
A screengrab of the tweet, retweeted by production company Star Wars Resistance’s Kira Muratova.
After the BBC revealed the Finders Keepers funding scheme set up by BBC director general Tony Hall to ensure more of its staff are women, Ms Muratova wrote: “Had a big chunk of my Star Wars Resistance crew, my director, and my copyeditor, all male. Was OK for months.”
She said she had felt “frozen out of the team” and taken ill after he had resigned.
As well as finding former Improbable productions it wanted to hire, Finders Keepers also required all producers working for the BBC to face gender pay audits.
Mr Black said Improbable did not comply with the scheme, and therefore would not be working with BBC Films in the future.
‘Star Wars has a problem too’
Writing in Daily Telegraph, Mr Black said “it’s good that the BBC is tackling pay in general” and asked “star wars is the next producer to be up for scrutiny?”
Notwithstanding the pay scandal, Mr Black said this is the first “major Hollywood blockbuster” he has worked on that “has a problem with the women involved” in the production.
Walt Disney Studios executive Rick McCallum, a member of the Hollywood Diversity Initiative, said: “Improvbable’s decision to remove Nick from the troupe is a good thing, especially in light of his recent ‘blatant bigotry’ comments to the press.”
The Hollywood Diversity Initiative aims to reduce diversity in the film industry and generate industry awareness of the difficulties faced by women and minority ethnic actors.