WHAT’S WORTH SEEING EXCLUSIVE: Just three weeks before what the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had hoped would be their welcome back party, after two years of controversy over racism, sexism and corruption, with the announcement of its nominations for the 2023 Golden Globes, the group has expelled its second member in three months.
Frank Rousseau – a French journalist covering the film industry for a range of French and Belgian publications – has been kicked out of the organisation after an investigation carried out by an independent law firm concluded that he had sold articles to a French tabloid, purporting to be interviews with Hollywood stars, without having actually interviewed them.
In a letter seen by What’s Worth Seeing, the HFPA President Helen Hoehne informs the membership of the board’s decision, saying “As we enter a new chapter in our history, it is imperative that our members live up to their obligations and maintain and promote professional and ethical conduct.”
In response to the allegations made against him, Mr Rousseau has argued that the quotes in his articles came from press conferences he had attended or conversations with the celebrities in question at parties or on red carpets and he suggested that the HFPA did not have rules stipulating a time frame within which specific quotes must be used.
He also raises the case of another member, Anikó Navai from Hungary, who was reported by The Wrap to have admitted using quotes from old HFPA interviews with Scarlett Johansson in an article published last year, but remains a member.
Rousseau – an HFPA member for 26 years – also accuses another member of using George Clooney quotes from a 2015 press conference in an article published in May this year – as well as quoting Anne Hathaway from a 2020 transcript relating to the film The Witches in coverage of a TV show which premiered this year. She too remains a member.
In an email seen by What’s Worth Seeing, Rousseau says an invitation to put his side of the story felt like “a well-planned ambush and yet another excuse for the board to humiliate and intimidate me further” and argues that that “it’s obvious the leadership is conspiring to use false rumours and baseless allegations to get rid of a member that has done nothing but try to modernise and move this organisation forward.”
Rousseau also makes claims about the behaviour of other members and argues that the organisation has “different rules for different members, depending on how close of a relationship you have with the President.”
His expulsion comes less than three months after another member, Husam Asi, was ejected from the organisation, despite an external law firm, hired by the HFPA, clearing him on “sexual assault” charges the HFPA spokesman said had been made against him. In legal action he subsequently launched against the HFPA for discrimination and sexual harassment, Asi – much as Rousseau is now doing – accused the HFPA of weaponising the allegations against him to retaliate for his attempts to hold the board accountable.
In his email, Rousseau urges HFPA members to “stand up for what is right” – but acknowledges that “the fear of losing the $75,000 per member yearly salary for five years is too much of a sacrifice for justice.”
He’s referring to a payment, understood to have been offered by the HFPA’s interim CEO, Todd Boehly, to the group’s members to hand control of its prestigious Golden Globes brand to one of his companies, Eldridge Industries. After two years on the side-lines, because of the revelation that the HFPA had no black members and accusations of self-dealing and bribery, the NBC TV network agreed to screen the 2023 awards ceremony, after boycotting this year’s event. In a statement, NBC said it recognised the HFPA’s commitment to ongoing change.
But the upcoming event is already shrouded in controversy, amid speculation that Brendan Fraser might be nominated for his lead role in The Whale. Fraser, who accused the former HFPA president Philip Berk of groping him, has said he will boycott the event if he’s nominated; the group dismissed Berk’s behaviour as “a joke.”
The HFPA might escape embarrassment ahead of next month’s nominations announcement, because – What’s Worth Seeing understands – journalists at the main entertainment industry publications, Variety and Hollywood Reporter, have been told not to write stories that reflect badly on the organisation, whose new owner Todd Boehly is also linked to the companies that publish the papers.
The HFPA has been approached for comment and this article will be updated should we receive a response.