The Oscar-winning star plays the Grand High Witch in the new version of Roald Dahl’s children’s book, which adds a new detail not featured in the original story, in which the character is revealed to have only three fingers on each hand.
Following the film’s debut, many disabled public figures voiced their disapproval of this decision, suggesting it perpetuates stigma around disability.
The film’s production company, Warner Bros, later issued an apology, with Anne now also speaking out.
“I have recently learned that many people with limb differences, especially children, are in pain because of the portrayal of the Grand High Witch in The Witches,” she wrote.
“Let me begin by saying I do my best to be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others not out of some scrambling PC fear, but because not hurting others seems like a basic level of decency we should all be striving for.
“As someone who really believes in inclusivity and really, really detests cruelty, I owe you all an apology for the pain caused. 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.”
She added: “I particularly want to say I’m sorry to kids with limb differences: now that I know better I promise I’ll do better. And I owe a special apology to everyone who loves you as fiercely as I love my own kids: I’m sorry I let your family down.”
Paralympian Amy Marren was among those who raised concerns about the film, tweeting earlier this week: “Was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect the limb difference community?!” questioned , who said: “It’s upsetting to [see] something that makes a person different being represented as something scary.
“This opens up all new difficult conversations for those with limb differences and sets back what we are trying to achieve which is to celebrate who you are.”
After many people with disabilities shared photos of themselves on social media with the hashtag #NotAWitch, Warner Bros spokesperson said they were “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities, and regret any offence caused”.
“In adapting the original story, we worked with designers and artists to come up with a new interpretation of the cat-like claws that are described in the book,” they said. “It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them.”
They added: “This film is about the power of kindness and friendship. It is our hope that families and children can enjoy the film and embrace this empowering, love-filled theme.”