Ben Stiller suggested replacing a statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt with one of late actor Robin Williams.
Stiller's suggestion came in response to the news that a bronze statue that’s been outside the American Museum of Natural History in New York since 1940 will come down after years of criticism and heightened sensitivity about race issues in the U.S. sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody.
The 54-year-old actor took to Twitter to suggest his “Night at the Museum” co-star get a statue in his honor to replace Roosevelt writing: “How about replacing it with a statue of Robin Williams. He deserves one.”
Williams, who died by suicide in 2014, played a version of Roosevelt in stiller’s trio of “Night at the Museum” movies. The plot of the films focused on a security guard at the Museum of Natural History, played by Stiller, who learns that all of the exhibits come to life at night, including a wax figure of the former president whom he quickly befriends.
According to The New York Times, the removal of the statue was proposed by the museum and agreed to by the City of New York, which owns the building and property. It notes that the statue, which depicts Roosevelt on a horse flanked by a Native American and an African man, has been deemed controversial by many for its depiction of colonialism and racism.
“Over the last few weeks, our museum community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd,” the museum’s president, Ellen V. Futter, told the outlet. “We have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism.”
Futter made sure to note that the museum is removing the statue for its “hierarchical composition” and not because of Roosevelt himself, whom the museum notes was “a pioneering conservationist.”
The decision to remove the statue comes as protests around the country about racial inequality and police brutality sparked a renewed debate over whether or not to keep statues of Confederate and other problematic historical figures in public spaces.