Anne Hathaway promotes Metro Detroit nonprofit in apology over ‘The Witches’ character

‘I particularly want to say I’m sorry to kids with limb differences: now that I know better I promise I’ll do better,’

Nonprofit for people with limb differences says 'Witches' movie should be teachable moment

ROYAL OAK, Mich.Anne Hathaway apologized on Instagram Thursday for how her role in the HBO movie “The Witches” could hurt children with limb differences.

Her role in the Roald Dahl adaptation received backlash from disability communities due to her character having three fingers on each hand.

The apology featured a video from the Lucky Fin Project, a Metro Detroit nonprofit started by Molly Stapleman after her daughter Ryan was born missing fingers on her right hand in 2007.

“I knew a lot of other people would be bothered by it and so that’s what hurt me,” Ryan said.

Molly Stapleman said the backlash with “The Witches” is that it tells children that limb differences, scars and hair loss should be feared or hidden away.

“They had deliberately made the creative choice to make Anne Hathaway’s Grand Witch character have limb differences in an effort to make her more creepy or sinister,” Molly said. “It really hurt my heart as a parent of a child is born with less than 10 fingers. I knew what kind of impact that could potentially have on young children who are limb different, and even from adults who had grown up with bullying because of their limb differences.”

A movement started on social media that used #NotAWitch to call out Warner Bros. for being insensitive. Molly said the portrayal was hurtful and reinforced negative stereotypes.

“As someone who really believes in inclusivity and really, really detests cruelty, I owe you all an apology for the pain caused,” Hathaway posted on Instagram. "I am sorry. I did not connect limb difference with the GHW when the look of the character was brought to me; if I had, I assure you this never would have happened.

Molly said Hathaway’s apology was heartfelt and it was important for her to acknowledge the issue, whether it was intentional or not.

“That that kind of kindness and grace is what the world needs in general,” Molly said. “Especially right now.”

Ryan said she wants everyone to know about her “lucky fin" and anyone else with a difference.

“It’s nothing to be scared of. It’s nothing to be ashamed of," Ryan said. “It’s a conversation starter, for sure. And, yeah, you just embrace what you have and be proud of it.”

While Warner Bros. did apologize that its movie could upset people with disabilities, Molly said she would like them to put some action behind that apology and put a disclaimer on the movie that there are real people with limb differences that should not be feared or made fun of.

“A child being born with a limb difference is not tragic. It’s extremely important to show our children how capable and wonderfully made they are," Molly said on the Lucky Fin website. "If we treat them as flawed or limited that is who they will believe themselves to be and that would be the tragedy.”

More information on the Lucky Fin Project can be found on the official website here.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.