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The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. raised eyebrows this week by nominating the widely panned thriller The Tourist for best comedy and nominating stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in the comedy/musical acting categories. To skeptics, the choices appeared to be a particularly blatant play to line the red carpet with celebrities — in this case, two of the world’s biggest — at the Golden Globes ceremony Jan. 16. Additionally, the movie was never marketed as a comedy; it was portrayed as a romantic thriller.
How divisive is the decision? At an industry party Wednesday night, a foreign journalist introduced herself to another guest as a member of the HFPA and then quickly blurted, “But I didn’t vote for The Tourist!“
Jolie told the Associated Press that she laughed when she heard about her nomination as best actress in a comedy or musical. “It’s the first time that I’ve been in the comedic category so it’s new for me,” she explained diplomatically.
And Jolie wasn’t the only one amused. The reaction from reporters and publicists present when the nominations were announced at the Beverly Hilton was audible, too.
The awkward question now is whether Jolie should attend the ceremony — with her partner, Brad Pitt, in tow, of course — or just skip it. An unscientific survey of Hollywood PR experts has some tilting toward not attending.
“The movie gets a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!” one says. “I think it’s one of the most embarrassing things ever. I think you say, ‘I’m on location, I can’t be there.’ It’s too ridiculous.” (By contrast, interestingly, the movie gets a 78% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes).
Says an awards campaign strategist: “I would say you shouldn’t go. It’s certainly going to embarrass [her] for a role that was eviscerated by the press.”
But veteran publicist Kelly Bush says Jolie could make the story bigger by staying away. (And while some in Hollywood insist they don’t take the Globes seriously, there is a risk of being perceived as ungrateful.) Bush thinks Jolie should take a page from Sandra Bullock, who embraced the Golden Raspberry award for worst actress in March for her performance in All About Steve. Bullock not only showed up at the ceremony but brought a cartload of DVDs to give to the audience. (At the time, she was front-runner for the best actress Oscar for The Blind Side, which she later won.)
“I think she needs to get in front of it and be self-deprecating,” Bush says, adding that she has not seen The Tourist and can’t comment on the nomination itself. One option would be to go to the ceremony — possibly as a presenter — and poke a little fun at the nomination.
Sharon Stone, who in 1999 became embroiled in controversy when it was revealed she gave Coach watches to HFPA members in advance of receiving a nomination for comedy/musical actress for the little-noticed The Muse, attended the ceremony that year. (But she lost to Janet McTeer in a film called Tumbleweeds.)
For Depp, the decision to attend the Globes seems less complicated. He is an HFPA darling, nominated twice in the musical comedy category this year (competing against himself with Alice in Wonderland and The Tourist). He’s been nominated 10 times in all, and won in 2008 for Sweeney Todd. (Jolie has had six nominations and three wins, most recently for supporting actress for 1999’s Girl, Interrupted.)
Sony Pictures submitted the film to the Globes as a drama but has been touting the three comedy/musical nominations in television ads. HFPA president Phil Berk on Thursday told The Hollywood Reporter that the decision to put the film in the comedy/musical category was director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s idea.
Asked whether the studio will launch an awards campaign for The Tourist — and mail out DVDs — a studio spokesman replied: “The HFPA has seen the film, and they have what they need to consider it for their final vote.”
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