Why the Golden Globes Crawled Back to Ricky Gervais

43 FEA Globes Ricky Gervais H
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The HFPA should brace itself for a flurry of uncomfortable moments at this year's Globes as many new stories are primed for Gervais' pounce

The comedian takes his third turn as emcee of the ceremony on Jan. 15.

This article appeared in the Dec. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Will the stars show up? That was the big concern when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association met Nov. 16 to vote on whether to bring back controversial Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais for another turn.

NBC and Dick Clark Productions had argued that a return to the podium by the bomb-throwing Gervais would juice ratings for the Jan. 15 telecast. But before saying yes, the HPFA and its PR firm undertook an informal poll of talent publicists, which revealed that the A-list film and TV talent that has turned the Globes into a marquee event would indeed come back for another Gervais-hosted show.

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And prior to the poll, HFPA president Aida Takla-O'Reilly and a colleague flew to Paris to have dinner with Gervais, his girlfriend and an NBC executive."He really wanted to do the show, contrary to what he pretends," says Takla-O'Reilly.

Some, including former HFPA president Philip Berk, whom Gervais famously insulted onstage last year, didn't want the comic back for his third stint on the Globes. "We got along fine for years without a host," says an HFPA member who voted against Gervais.

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Berk told THR after the Globes in January that the host had "definitely stepped over the line" with barbs directed at Robert Downey Jr., Bruce Willis and Charlie Sheen as well as telling the show's 17 million U.S. viewers that he "had to help [Berk] off the toilet and pop his teeth in."

Berk, though, now insists he didn't take the joke personally. "It was just part of his shtick, a way for him to be funny," he says. In the end, only a small percentage of the organization's 90-odd members voted against Gervais. "We air our feelings and then all get united," says Takla-O'Reilly, adding that Gervais has agreed to show producers and network executives a version of his script in advance and let them watch rehearsals.

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However, she and the other HFPA members know that the same reason they fear Gervais is the reason they invited him back for more. Says Takla-O'Reilly, "We can't tie his hands too much because then he won't be funny anymore."