Channel 5 has axed scenes containing the character Mr Yunioshi because it shows a Caucasian man playing a Japanese character. The depiction of Mr Yunioshi, played by Mickey Rooney, in the 1961 American romantic comedy has been deemed racist. The entire role of Mr Yunioshi has been consigned to the cutting room floor.
The move has been criticised as a “dangerous” rewriting of history.
The double Oscar-winning classic of American cinema defined Audrey Hepburn’s reputation as a screen icon.
In the film, Rooney wore ‘yellowface’ make-up and buck teeth, taped his eyes and delivered the lines in an exaggerated accent.
He played the role of Hepburn’s landlord, however, it is considered a crude depiction of a Japanese man.
The cutting of the entire role sets a precedent for future censorship.
In the past, the film has received content warnings from broadcasters, such as Sky, but never a full re-edit.
Monty Python star turned film director Terry Gilliam hit out at the decision.
He said: “Censorship seems to be a growth industry in Britain these days.
“To remove scenes of characters from films that had already survived the critical eye of past official censors seems absurd and dangerous.
“Who are the new censors?
“Who has given them the right to bowdlerise?”
Hepburn’s son Sean Hepburn Ferrer, a successful film producer, said: “You have to look at it from the perspective of people then.
“That is the big problem today.
“Everything is looked at within the scope of one lifetime as if we were the most important point in the story.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s is at the centre of a censorship claim (Image: GETTY)
“The film is what it is and you should put a warning at the beginning saying it was made in 1961 and these were the decisions made at the time.”
The cutting of Rooney’s character has the effect of removing one of Hepburn’s most famous lines.
When she locks herself out of her apartment, she wakes up Mr Yunioshi by ringing his buzzer.
In the new cut, we don’t hear his response.
With the response gone so too is Hepburn’s line: “Don’t be angry you dear little man. I won’t do it again. If you promise not to be angry, I might let you take those pictures we mentioned.’
Breakfast At Tiffany’s is listed in the US National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.
Not everyone is a fan of the classic and Sir Richard Eyre, a former director of the National Theatre, spoke to the Mail on Sunday and said: “It is terrible apart from Audrey Hepburn.
“Mickey Rooney’s performance was preposterously offensive.
“The kindest thing would be to burn the film.”
Channel 5 said it made the cuts but declined to comment further.