Michael Eisner Clarifies "Beautiful, Funny Women" Comment: They're "Hard to Come By in Hollywood"

Michael Eisner

Serving as chief executive for more than two decades, Michael Eisner revitalized Disney during the '80s and '90s with a slew of hit films and new theme parks. Also controversial during his tenure, Eisner famously passed up Jeffrey Katzenberg for the role of Walt Disney Company president, instead recruiting his friend Michael Ovitz for the position. (Ovitz lasted only 14 months and his exit prompted a long-running derivative suit.) In September 2005, Eisner quietly left his post with just a one-page sendoff in the company newsletter.

The former Disney CEO initially said "usually, unbelievably beautiful women ... are not funny."

Michael Eisner has released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter clarifying his earlier remark about beautiful, funny women in the movie business.

"In the context of a public conversation with Goldie Hawn in which I was complimenting her on being both beautiful and funny, I said such a combination is hard to come by in Hollywood," the former Disney CEO clarified in the statement. "I certainly did not say Goldie was the only one. My point was simply that Goldie, unlike many, has not been defined exclusively as one or the other."

The statement comes after Eisner was widely criticized for the comment he made last week at the Aspen Ideas Festival during an onstage conversation with Hawn.

"From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman. By far," Eisner said. "They usually — boy am I going to get in trouble, I know this goes online — but usually, unbelievably beautiful women, you being an exception, are not funny."

Hawn replied, saying she owed her comedic talent to the fact that she perceived herself as an "ugly duckling" as a child.

Eisner built on this, saying, "You didn't think you were beautiful. I know women who have been told they're beautiful, they win Miss Arkansas, they don't ever have to get attention other than with their looks. So they don't tell a joke. In the history of the motion-picture business, the number of beautiful, really beautiful women — a Lucille Ball — that are funny, is impossible to find."

Following his comment in Aspen, Eisner was quickly ripped by prominent women in Hollywood such as Megan Ellison and Mindy Kaling.

"It's too much. I can't take it," Ellison wrote on Twitter. "It's just so painfully cliché. People wonder what's wrong with Hollywood. Stop wondering."

Kaling called Eisner's remark "pitiful."