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Hollywood’s bloated egos require some manner of annual deflation, especially during Oscar season. For more than 40 years, that has been the objective of the Golden Raspberry Awards. The Razzies, as they’re (un)affectionately known, have celebrated the best of the worst in film since 1980. The dubious honor has been accepted by such self-deprecating luminaries as Halle Berry (Catwoman), Ben Affleck (Gigli) and Sandra Bullock (All About Steve).
But evolving sensibilities have recently cast a shadow over the operation. In January, in response to social media backlash, the group rescinded its 2023 nomination of a 12-year-old actress (Firestarter star Ryan Kiera Armstrong). Not a year earlier, a fresh win for Bruce Willis and a decades-old nomination for Shelley Duvall were taken back — the former in light of his aphasia diagnosis and the latter for revelations of on-set mistreatment by The Shining director Stanley Kubrick. The Razzies began as a way to poke fun at fame. Today, that impulse has to be reconciled with a culture that shows little appetite for punching down.
“Our mission statement is bring humanity to celebrity,” says Mo Murphy, who co-founded The Razzies with John J.B. Wilson. “We all make mistakes. Look at us. We’re the Razzies. We stop, we reflect and we rectify. That’s what we figure is our relevance: asking people to be as good as we know they can be.”
Adds Wilson: “We don’t consider ourselves a slap in the face. We look at ourselves as a banana peel on the floor. It’s meant to evoke humor.”
Not every dishonoree has taken the flatulent accolade in stride. Murphy and Wilson reference a distraught star whose publicist sent them to Disneyland the day of the awards to avoid news of an impending sweep. Sylvester Stallone was said to be none too pleased with his “worst actor of the century” title. And Eddie Murphy has been vocal about how his “worst actor of the decade” Razzie in 2010 inspired him to step back from acting.
Still, it’s hard to argue with some of their choices. The voting pool of just under 1,200 — six times the body that votes for the Golden Globes and one made up of anyone willing to pay $40 a year in dues — made Machine Gun Kelly’s Good Mourning, which holds an extraordinary 0 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, a top nominee this year with seven nods. And in a slight, politically minded deviation, recent Razzies have targeted conspiracy theorist “documentaries” from election denier Mike “My Pillow Guy” Lindell and far-right provocateur Dinesh D’Souza. (In 2017, D’Souza accepted remotely and asked that his three trophies be sent to him. “It was the most expensive FedEx bill we ever had,” says Wilson.)
Embracing a Razzie isn’t rare. Dwayne Johnson, good vibes personified, once shared a video accepting the award for his 2017 Baywatch remake. Filmmaker Paul Verhoeven was the first recipient to attend the in-person ceremony back in 1996. “I’d gotten a lot of bad reviews in Holland, so Showgirls was a confirmation that I’d become American,” says the Amsterdam-born director. “I never cared too much about it because I had a feeling that they were wrong.”
Accompanying a Dutch journalist to the event at the Hollywood Roosevelt, Verhoeven initially sat uncomfortably as the crowd jeered a clip of Showgirls‘ infamous pool sex scene. But as the audience began to realize his presence, boos turned to applause. He accepted each of the six wins, grabbing the same trophy — there was only one on hand — each time. “What started with so much negativity became enthusiastic and warm. I can concretely say that it was an essential moment in my career. The fact that the Razzies are still going, I applaud it.” (Verhoeven continues to disagree with singling out actress Elizabeth Berkley. Showgirls‘ adverse impact on her career was immediate and, almost 30 years later, the Razzie is still salt in the wound.)
For all the recent online furor, no one thinks the Razzies are in any danger of going away. “Publicly, we’re shifting away from being snarky and negative, but you couldn’t tell from looking at our work Slack,” says one awards strategist. “It’s not like a Razzie ever ruined anybody’s career. If anything, it gets more people to watch some movies that didn’t do well.”
The co-founders seem happy to evolve. They want to relaunch in-person ceremonies (which stopped well before the pandemic) and they seem confident that more nominees and winners will acknowledge being called out in the future. “It’s an opportunity to defend the work or just own it,” says Mo Murphy.
Whenever they next gather in person, Murphy and Wilson hope to extend an olive branch to Ryan Kiera Armstrong — whose rescinded nomination prompted them to set an age minimum of 18 for nominees. “Maybe she could give us the Razzie,” adds Murphy. “We’ll accept it.”
This story first appeared in the March 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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