James Franco does not take criticism of his work lightly. Currently starring in Of Mice and Men on Broadway, the actor was quite displeased with the review New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley gave the revival. Though Brantley’s assessment was not excessively negative — he even complimented Franco’s talent at one point — the actor posted an incensed response to the review on Instagram, calling the critic “a little bitch.” The post has since been deleted.
Brantley responded to the criticism much more diplomatically than Franco. “I like Franco’s work on film a lot, and he didn’t disgrace himself on stage,” the writer told the New York Observer. “I hope he returns to Broadway some day. And of course he’s entitled to say whatever he likes about me, as long as it’s not libelous, and somehow I don’t think ‘little bitch’ qualifies.”
Franco is hardly the first celebrity to lash out over hurt feelings and bad reviews. Last year, Brantley was the target of another famous actor appearing on Broadway, Alec Baldwin. The NYT critic panned his show, a revival of Orphans, and Baldwin shot back with a bitter essay on the state of modern theater on The Huffington Post.
“Ben Brantley, who I must state up front is no fan of mine (every John Simon must have his Amanda Plummer, I suppose), is not a good writer,” Baldwin opined. He called the critic “some odd, shriveled, bitter Dickensian clerk” and added: “Beyond the obvious impact that a weak or scathing review in the Times has on sales, particularly with booking agents for tourists, no one I know of in the theatre reads Brantley except in the way that a doctor reads an x-ray to determine if you have cancer.”
In 2012, the Times earned another famous critic for the paper’s criticism: Guy Fieri. Restaurant reviewer Pete Wells skewered the celebrity chef’s Times Square eatery, Guy’s American Kitchen, in a critique that included this memorable line: “Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?” (In Fieri’s defense, why would Wells know what radiator fluid tastes like?)
Fieri made an appearance on Today to address the controversial review, which went viral. “I thought it was ridiculous,” the outspoken chef said. “I mean, I’ve read reviews — there’s good and there’s bad in the restaurant business, but that to me went so overboard, it really seemed like there was another agenda.”
Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler also had a hunch that a bad review was the result of hidden motivations. Last fall, The Washington Post rock critic Chris Richards opened his review of the band’s new album with this choice observation: “Look, I’m sure they’re very nice people, but on their fourth album, Reflektor, Arcade Fire still sound like gigantic dorks with boring sex lives.”
Rolling Stone asked Butler if he had read the review. Yes, the singer saw it, and offered this anecdote: “The guy who wrote it played in a band that we used to open for. It seems like a bit of a conflict of interest.” That band was Washington, D.C., post-hardcore outfit Q And Not U.
But what about that “gigantic dork” line? “Whatever,” Butler told Rolling Stone. “I’m a super-dork because I play with David Bowie. Bruce Springsteen wants to cover my songs because I’m such a dork. I’m not a dork. I’m a f–king rock star.” Touché.
Less willing to spar with his critics was Shia LaBeouf, who responded to outcry over plagiarism accusations by going on a bizarre anti-publicity publicity tour, which included appearing on a red carpet with a paper bag over his head and staging the art exhibit #IAMSORRY, a performance piece that was also criticized for being a ripoff.
Speaking of ripoffs, some fans felt Zach Braff was running some kind of con when he started a Kickstarter campaign to fund his followup to Garden State, Wish I Was Here. He’s a TV star! people argued. Why does he need my money?
Braff responded by saying “this isn’t a money-making endeavor….Making a tiny art film is not where people go to to make money. This is a passion project.” His full justification is here:
BTW, Braff raised more than $3 million for the film via Kickstarter.