If you think #MeToo is old news, just look closely at what’s been going on under the surface of Hollywood in the run-up to this year’s Oscars. Within the space of just a week, the Academy decided to press on without a host, Liam Neeson’s film premiere was cancelled over a racism row, Bryan Singer lost a BAFTA nomination, and Woody Allen sued Amazon. With no charges having been brought – let alone been proven – this raises the prospect that the film business is now an industry where you’re guilty until proven innocent and begs the question, can Singer or Allen – or anyone else at the wrong end of such accusations – ever work again? In the cases of Hart, Singer and Allen, accusations against them were known even before deals were stuck, adding to confusion about what the industry is doing and why it leaves it until the last minute to act. Carly Mayberry looks at the latest cluster of controversies stemming from the #MeToo campaign:
Just when you thought the #MeToo movement had made an indelible imprint on the future of how Hollywood conducts itself, recent controversies leading up to this year’s Oscar night may actually wind up outshining the actual nominations and winners themselves.
In the case of this year’s actual Academy Award ceremony, it was in early December when comedian Kevin Hart was hired as the year’s host for Hollywood’s biggest night of the year and then gave up his hosting duties shortly after. That’s because within hours, comments were circulating on social media about Hart’s past remarks made a decade earlier during a stand-up routine when he divulged his biggest fear involved his son growing up to be gay. Days later, rather than apologising, Hart opted to give up hosting duties after criticism seemed to escalate and he said he didn’t want to be a distraction. And after failing to persuade him to return – or to find a replacement – the Academy decided to proceed without a host for the first time in 30 years.
Yet Hart stepping down from leading Hollywood’s biggest night of the year is just one incident tied to this year’s Oscars event in its 91st year.
It was last October in a published Vanity Affair article that a report detailed the behavior of Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer. The piece divulged why Twentieth Century Fox fired Singer in December of 2017 and shut down his production offices Bad Hat Harry.
That was after Singer had reportedly been repeatedly absent from the set and gotten into an altercation with the film’s star Rami Malek. Singer has previously developed a reputation for being a difficult director and worse, has had sexual misconduct allegations made against him in the past and again, recently. The earlier claims were dismissed but industry insiders believe there’s more veracity to the most recent ones.
Meanwhile, the Queen biopic has received five Oscar nominations including Best Picture.
This month, the British Academy Film Awards suspended Singer’s nomination in the Outstanding British Film category for Bohemian Rhapsody after new allegations about the director’s misconduct were addressed in a January article in The Atlantic. It included accounts from anonymous men who said they had sex with Singer when they were minors. While Singer denied it, BAFTA said the suspension decision would remain in place “until the outcome of the allegations has been resolved.” That’s as Singer’s next move Red Sonja remains stalled.
In the same week, the veteran director Woody Allen filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Amazon, accusing the studio of prematurely terminating a multi-year multi-picture deal. His projects with the streaming service/studio remain at a standstill, linked to the #MeToo movement and allegations made by Dylan Farrow, Allen’s estranged daughter. Farrow has claimed that Allen sexually molested her as a child. While Allen has never been formally charged, Farrow’s insistence in conjunction with the rise of the #MeToo movement has sullied the enthusiasm of many actors who would normally jump at a chance to work with the iconic director. Ironically, Allen’s estranged son Ronan Farrow has been one of the reporters taking the lead when it comes to writing about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct.
While Allen claims his production company, Gravier, is owed between $68 and $73 million guaranteed payments from Amazon, more actors continue to distance themselves from Allen. While two of the five movies have already been made, Amazon is said to be reconsidering the entire deal, one that was originally negotiated by its former studio head Roy Price who himself resigned after facing allegations of sexual harassment.
It was last month Peter Farrelly, yet another well-known director related to one of this year’s multi award nominated films Green Book, found himself in hot water over past sexual misconduct. While his film has enjoyed healthy momentum this awards season, news articles referenced past instances of the director showing his private parts to unsuspecting victims back in the 1990s. Farrelly issued an apology.
In a statement to news outlet CNN, Farrelly called himself “an idiot” and that his behaviour took place years ago in which he thought he was being funny.
Despite the controversy, Green Book – like Bohemian Rhapsody – has received five Oscar nominations including Best Picture.
But it’s not just directors who’ve been falling foul of the current mood in Hollywood. The star of numerous revenge thrillers, Liam Neeson, has been at the centre of his own contentious situation following racially charged comments during a conversation while promoting his upcoming release, Cold Pursuit. Neeson revealed he once considered carrying out a revenge attack when someone close to him told him she had been raped by a black man. Neeson later appeared on Good Morning America to clarify his comments, deny he was a racist and express that he hoped the comments could spark a bigger conversation about race and bigotry. Still, the premier of his latest film Cold Pursuit was canceled.
The Oscars are now less than a week away but you can be sure that the glittering host-less ceremony will not bring an end to these stories or more like them that are sure to surface in the weeks and months to come.