Hollywood insiders rip Golden Globes comeback: 'Any nomination from that organization this year is tainted'
It's hard to imagine an agent bemoaning the thought of adding a piece of hardware to a client's mantel in the run-up to the Oscars. But as uncertainty over the Golden Globes' future interrupts the usual flow of awards season, will the industry — or the audience at home — care if the Globes are permanently knocked from their gilded perch?
"Any nomination from that organization this year is tainted," a prominent publicity head working with a major studio contender tells EW of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group of mostly international journalists that puts on the Globes, currently mired in an ongoing racial-exclusion scandal. In a normal year, the HFPA would bestow its honors at an annual televised ceremony that celebrates boozy spectacle as much as it stokes Oscar buzz. But as another campaign mastermind — whose track record includes hundreds of Academy Award nominations — tells us, this year is different: "You focus on laurels that give pedigree and bring attention in a positive way. Given the conversation right now, [the Globes don't] feel positive. [They don't] feel like forward momentum."
Rewind to February 2021 when, seven days before NBC's 78th Golden Globes broadcast, the Los Angeles Times published an exposé revealing that, amid a Best Picture snub for Judas and the Black Messiah, there were no Black members among the HFPA's 87-member votership. Backlash was swift: A week later, the bicoastal telecast registered record-low ratings and a spate of celebrity callouts, from Ava DuVernay and Scarlett Johansson to Tom Cruise, who returned his three Globe statuettes in protest. The network declared it wouldn't air the Globes in 2022, while a coalition of 102 publicity firms (collectively representing an overwhelming majority of Hollywood talent) pledged to stop working with the HFPA until it took action for equity.
Despite the HFPA's monthslong work behind the scenes — including the creation of an oversight committee, a partnership with the NAACP, and welcoming 21 new diverse voters into its membership — the stain of scandal has yet to fade. Still without a TV partner, the group was set to announce nominees on Dec. 13 and present the awards on Jan. 9, a move our sources call a "hideous" and "poor-form" attempt to dominate the date already occupied by the Critics' Choice Awards. (In response to EW's inquiry about the date, HFPA president Helen Hoehne said in a statement: "January 9th was always the intended date of the Golden Globe Awards and the HFPA always planned to recognize the best in film and television this year, as we've done for the last 78 years.")
While no films or actors actually have to be officially submitted for Globes consideration this year due to the HFPA's decision to lift the entry requirements previously in place, some studios are going even further and not providing screening links. A top campaign firm also indicated it won't promote multiple high-profile clients (spanning several studios) to the HFPA over the same period.
"I don't think anyone would use that kind of nomination in an outward-facing way to promote clients," says one talent representative currently heading an Oscar bid for a noted actress. "It could have a negative effect." Our campaign mastermind cited earlier (now coordinating several campaigns) speculates that stars could push back, too. "Let's say they give it to a certain actress and she says, 'Uh, I don't want it,'" the strategist says. Potential nominees could be shamed by the public if they embrace an honor from a group that hasn't enacted tangible change, which is why any sort of in-person appearance by an honoree seems out of the question: "A celebrity-led event is not the direction we are heading for this year's program," says Hoehne.
However, the HFPA's hunger for maintaining its position as the first major televised awards show of the season is clear. "There's something about being able to say you're first, because they can say they're tastemakers," continues the mastermind about the Globes' broadcast in early January, which lands before the Academy unveils its Oscar nominations.
"The power came solely from the broadcast," says Mary Murphy, a veteran Hollywood journalist and media associate professor at the University of Southern California. "It wasn't the impact of [the HFPA's influence in] journalism, it was the impact of the show," she adds, in that prospective Oscar contenders had a chance to go on stage and accept an award in front of millions of viewers — and voters. It also didn't hurt that, whether it was host Ricky Gervais roasting attendees with a drink in hand, or Christine Lahti missing her own victory while in the bathroom — the telecast became a must-watch event for its loosey-goosey nature.
"There were moments in every show that became funny media legends," says Murphy, "[but] I'm not sure it had any real impact on who won an Oscar." Still, the Globes telecast traditionally gave a publicity boost to any given campaign — a lift that pulpier, celebrity-driven titles like Lady Gaga's House of Gucci or the star-studded blockbuster Dune could use on the circuit this year.
That disconnect Murphy cites is clear on the civilian level as well. Brian Kirn, 33, an NYC-based internship and alumni relations manager and movie buff, says he watches the Globes because they're a "fun part of awards season" and an opportunity for stars to let "their guard down" versus the stuffier Oscars. "It's more about the celebrities," notes Kirn, who hasn't put weight into the HFPA's taste after they nominated Angelina Jolie's derided comedy The Tourist for Best Picture in 2010 — a move he feels was a play to have costars Jolie and Johnny Depp in attendance. "If they're not going to do a flashy ceremony.... [it's] interesting, because then it's like, you're taking away the fun part — at least the part I tuned in for."
Alexandria Gonzalez, a 32-year-old lawyer from Austin, agrees, saying that "they need the spectacle" to stay relevant, and that she won't seek out the nominations list unless she happens upon it while casually scrolling through Twitter.
As one awards show falls, another rises: Murphy points to the Critics' Choice Awards — and its more reputable base of more than 500 journalists — as a likely heir to the Globes' ecosystem, with an upcoming broadcast on The CW and TBS. This, according to the publicity head, is the nail in the HFPA's coffin: "[The Globes are] a total, absolute nonfactor [this year]. Let's all draw attention to unsung voices and perspectives [in film and journalism], and not the people who voted The Martian as best comedy."
Whatever the HFPA ends up doing, the result could be something even worse than industry ire: "I don't even know if it's a controversy anymore," the talent rep says. "It's just apathy."
Nineteen-year-old student Clara McCourt, a self-described film buff, has childhood memories of watching past Globes telecasts with her mother, who mostly savored watching drunk stars pal around at "the trashy awards show," as she dubbed it. "I still think of it as the trashy awards show," McCourt admits today. And when she heard the Globes might not return to TV in 2022? "I was like, 'Oh, that sucks,'" she finishes. "But then I moved on with my day."
A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly's January issue, on newsstands Dec. 17 and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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