Space Jam: A New Legacy will be the first time the Looney Tunes have appeared in a major motion picture in 18 years, and 25 years after the first Space Jam was released. While these characters have lasted for decades, some of them haven’t stood the test of time as well as others. For example, Lola Bunny – who was created for Space Jam – is being redesigned so as not to be so sexualized, and previously, Elmer Fudd was banned from carrying a gun when Looney Tunes debuted on HBO Max. Now, Pepe Le Pew has been cut out of the upcoming Space Jam 2.
Recently, Pepe Le Pew was embroiled in controversy after New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow said that the skunk character “added to rape culture.” Pepe Le Pew has long been a questionable character in the Looney Tunes’ roster. Pepe is a stereotypical French lover character who won’t take no for an answer. His scenes usually revolve around the character holding on to an unwilling participant, while they struggle to get out of his grasp. It turns out though, Pepe Le Pew will not be appearing in Space Jam 2, despite the film originally featuring a scene with the character.
While Blow’s article was posted recently, Pepe Le Pew was actually cut at least several months ago, as Deadline says, sources who saw a rough cut of Space Jam 2 three months ago say they didn’t see a cameo from Pepe Le Pew. The sequence that was shot which was to include Pepe was directed by the film’s first director, Terence Nance. Malcolm D. Lee took over the film in 2019, so it seems as though the scene in question was shot at least two years ago.
Oddly though, the sequence that was cut from Space Jam 2 addressed the creepiness of Pepe Le Pew’s past actions. According to Deadline, the sequence starred Jane the Virgin actress Greice Santo, and would appear in a black-and-white sequence that would have been an homage to Casablanca. The scene would take place at Rick’s Cafe, where Pepe would play a bartender, and would start hitting on a woman at the bar played by Santo. After kissing her arm, Santo would have slammed Pepe into a chair, poured her drink on him, and then send him spinning on a stool.
LeBron James and Bugs Bunny are looking for Lola Bunny, and apparently, Pepe Le Pew knows how to find her. Pepe tells James and Bugs that Penelope cat has filed a restraining order against him, and James mentions that Pepe can’t grab other Tunes without their consent. Santo, who has been very vocal about her experiences with sexual harassment and has worked to fight against harassment, reportedly was upset that the Space Jam 2 scene was cut. Apparently, Pepe Le Pew had not even been animated for the sequence.
While it doesn’t seem like Pepe Le Pew not appearing in Space Jam 2 has nothing to do with the recent backlash coming after Blow’s article, it is unusual that the film will supposedly ignore the character, rather than address his issues in the sequence. This might just be a case of a different director having a different Vision for Space Jam: A New Legacy, but if Warner Bros. does want to avoid further issues with the character, it seems like maybe they should face these issues head-on.