Disney Board Foe Nelson Peltz Questions ‘Woke’ Marvel Films: ‘Why Do I Have to Have a Marvel [Movie] That’s All Women? Why Do I Need an All-Black Cast?’

Nelson Peltz, the activist investor agitating to win two Disney board seats, criticized the company’s “woke” strategy — specifically questioning Marvel’s “Black Panther” and “The Marvels,” which featured Black and women leads, respectively.

The 81-year-old Peltz, who has admitted he “never claimed” to have experience in the media business, made the comments about “The Marvels” and “Black Panther” in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “Why do I have to have a Marvel [movie] that’s all women?” Peltz asked rhetorically. “Not that I have anything against women, but why do I have to do that? Why can’t I have Marvels that are both? Why do I need an all-Black cast?”

More from Variety

“Black Panther” does not have an all-Black cast, nor does “The Marvels” have an all-female cast.

“Black Panther,” starring Chadwick Boseman, was a bona fide blockbuster, reaping $1.35 billion at the worldwide box office, while 2023’s “The Marvels” was a flop with a $206 million total haul. (The earlier 2019 “Captain Marvel” starring Brie Larson in the title role grossed $1.13 billion.)

Iger, speaking last fall at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit, acknowledged that Disney productions should focus on storytelling rather than advocating particular agendas. “Creators lost sight of what their No. 1 objective needed to be. We have to entertain first. It’s not about messages,” Iger said. On that point, Peltz said in the FT interview, “People go to watch a movie or a show to be entertained. They don’t go to get a message.”

SEE ALSO: Nelson Peltz Claims He Backs Disney CEO Bob Iger, but His Investment Firm Withheld Votes for Iger’s Election to the Board

Disney has framed the proxy-vote campaign by Peltz’s Trian Partners as driven by a “longstanding personal agenda” harbored by former Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter against Iger. Trian controls roughly $3.5 billion worth of Disney stock, 79% of which is owned by Perlmutter. Last year, Disney terminated Perlmutter’s employment.

As Marvel chairman, Perlmutter famously fought Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige over making “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” — on the belief that movies with Black or women lead characters would not be commercially successful — until Iger intervened to overruled Perlmutter.

In his 2019 memoir “The Ride of a Lifetime,” Iger described “the tensions that had built up” between Feige “and the New York office” (i.e., Perlmutter). “We had a chance to make a great movie and to showcase an underrepresented segment of America, and those goals were not mutually exclusive,” Iger wrote. “I called Ike and told him to tell his team to stop putting up roadblocks and ordered that we put both ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Captain Marvel’ into production.”

Peltz, asked during the FT interview if Feige should be removed as president of Marvel Studios, replied, “I’m not ready to say that, but I question his record.”

In a new statement Monday, Peltz’s Trian claimed it “supports Mr. Iger as a candidate for the board and as CEO,” and asserted that its goal was to replace certain Disney board members with new blood. However, Trian withheld its votes for Iger’s reelection to the Disney board.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.