Daniel Radcliffe’s latest project, the action/adventure film Guns Akimbo, is scheduled to debut Friday, though for a short time this week its future appeared uncertain. The film’s director, Jason Lei Howden, recently inserted himself into an ongoing and complex Twitter argument regarding racism and online bullying—but wound up bullying writers of color in the process.
Howden’s tweets responded to an ongoing Twitter firestorm surrounding the former editor of a now-defunct film site; the controversy peaked when screenshots surfaced of a message in which the editor used the n-word. The site’s staff resigned. The editor, meanwhile, received a wave of criticism that ranged from sincere critiques intended to hold her accountable, to serious harassment. Last week the editor posted a video message after an apparent suicide attempt, which led to an outpouring of concern from Twitter users about how toxic these conversations often become. That’s when Howden became involved.
In a series of now-deleted tweets from both his personal account and the official Guns Akimbo account, Howden railed against what he called “woke cyberbullies.” At one point he reportedly listed the staff members who had resigned, implying they had been part of the targeted campaign against their former editor. Howden also went on to post screenshots of two critics’ accounts—Valerie Complex and DarkSkyLady—claiming they had bullied the editor to the point of suicide. In one tweet in which he tagged Medium, where DarkSkyLady writes, Howden accused the writer of “attempted murder with online bullying.” Both Complex and DarkSkyLady maintain that they were not involved in the harassment.
Several Twitter users have since voiced their support for the writers Howden named, posting screenshots of the now-deleted tweets and calling the director out for attempting to combat bullying with more bullying—and for targeting writers of color while doing so. Some sites have vowed not to cover Guns Akimbo at all in solidarity with the writers.
Howden responded to the controversy Monday on Twitter, writing, “Just to set the record straight, my posts were only meant to be about bullying.” Howden said he does not support the message that contained the n-word. “Racism,” he wrote, “is not acceptable in any context. I respect @MyDarkSkyLady and @ValerieComplex's work but not bullying.” The director added that his mother killed herself after being bullied, “which I didn’t know about until it was too late. To see others doing the same is incredibly painful and unnecessary. #GunsAkimbo was about putting a torch to online bullying. Ironic. I'm sorry to everyone I have offended, that was not my intent.”
A representative for Saban confirmed on Monday that the film will release Friday as planned: “We are releasing GUNS AKIMBO this Friday, February 28th. While we do not condone, agree or share Mr. Howden’s online behavior, which is upsetting and disturbing, we are supportive of the film and all the hard work and dedication that has gone into making GUNS AKIMBO.”
Representatives for Radcliffe and Howden did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.