Tom Sherak on Banksy Crashing Oscars: 'I'm Not Gonna Stand Up to Stop Him'
Could monkey-masked Banksy invade the Oscar broadcast like a short King Kong? "Sure he could," says Academy president Tom Sherak. But don't bet on seeing Banksy even if he wins Best Documentary.
The always-hidden Banksy, who promoted his best documentary nom Exit Through the Gift Shop with three new L.A .graffiti pieces this week (less scandalous than last week's first four), began negotiations for his Oscar appearance at the Feb. 7 Oscar noms' lunch. "That was a five-minute conversation about if they won how it would be handled," says Sherak. "How we could be comfortable and they could be comfortable. He wasn't there. That we know -- he could've been the waiter at the table. How would we know? His reps were very, very open, nice, trying to work with us." Banksy wants to attend the show in a mask, perhaps his monkey mask. "We said if he wants to come up of course he should come up. No, we'd rather he not wear a mask. There's no rule. We asked him to respect the night and respect the honor."
"Does that mean he couldn't run on? Sure he could. Listen, he'd run right over me. I'm not gonna stand up to stop him. Nobody is, that's not what we do. Would this be fun? I guess to some people. I guess it was a lotta fun when Blake Edwards ran through with a speeding wheelchair, or when the streaker came out. How about the guy who came with a stuffed penguin? Excuse me, did you ever see the Academy get mad about that? It's spontaneous! I'm looking at what Bansky's done, and that's fun. Maybe not if I'm CBS and he's defacing my billboard. But I get it. It's a cultural thing."
But Banksy can't appear without a mask. He has more to lose than Batman by exposing his secret identity. He'd imperil his whole career. Like Jackie Onassis, elusiveness is his power. Famous secrecy is why the Sunset Vegas showgirl billboard he defaced last week is, according to art experts, now worth way over $500,000 -- about what an Oscar campaigner says it was worth in PR value for The Fighter to have the opening montage reel at the Globes. He could make millions if the hoopla over the tag attacks helps him nab an upset victory over frontrunner Inside Job. By ducking the spotlight, he gets more spotlights than a convict staging a prison breakout. "He's gotta be a little careful," notes Sherak. "It's not like there aren't people looking for him. He did deface property."
So should everybody in their monkey suits at the Kodak Feb. 27 be looking over their shoulder for Bansky in a gorilla mask? Cheeky monkey! Don't bother. What's likelier is that someone may be designated to accept on his behalf, which ordinarily only happens when someone dies (e.g., his family collecting Heath Ledger's Oscar). Perhaps AMPAS may let Banksy designate a recipient, since his career would die if he showed his face.
Some say AMPAS should welcome Banksy's mask. "Half the women over 40 in Hollywood are wearing masks," says an Oscar campaign advisor. Kathe Kollwitz, who speaks for the Guerrilla Girls, the anonymous masked '80s feminist art activists whose behavior Banksy apes, is on his side. "No masks at the Oscars? WTF!" Kollwitz emails. "Where would Hollywood be without masked avengers?" She has a plan for Banksy, plus one request. "We've been wearing gorilla masks for years and we're happy to lend Banksy one of ours, as long as he tells everyone on the red carpet he's wearing 'Guerrilla Girls.'"
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Scott Feinberg, the lead awards analyst for The Hollywood Reporter, is one of the entertainment industry's most experienced and trusted experts about the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys. He started on the awards beat in 2001, writing for independent websites including his own ScottFeinberg.com before joining the Los Angeles Times and then THR, for which he writes “The Race” blog, which won the LA Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Award for best entertainment blog of 2012-2013. A voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics' Association and Broadcast Television Journalists Association, he is also writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 500 high-profile Hollywood figures whose careers span the silent era through the present.
Follow Scott on Twitter at twitter.com/scottfeinberg.