With the Golden Globes nominations set for Monday, Hollywood has a big decision to make when it comes to the beleaguered Hollywood Foreign Press Association: Is it time to forgive the organization for its corrupt past, lack of diversity and paid members just so everyone can booze it up again at the Beverly Hilton?
As far as the current regime of the HFPA is concerned, everyone in town seems ready to party again. “The feedback has been amazing,” President Helen Hoehne tells Deadline. “Our studio partners have worked with us to ensure the kinds of changes were made to reimagine the HFPA and Golden Globes and preserve our future to ensure our philanthropy and charitable activities continue to grow strongly and we remain the leading awards program to kick off the award season on a strong note that benefits the entire Hollywood community. We recognize we have a special responsibility to set the tone and tenor for each season and look forward to embracing that challenge with Hollywood’s Party of the Year.”
And she continues to stress that the HFPA has cleaned up its house. It boosted the racial and ethnic diversity of their membership to over 51% by adding 21 U.S.-based journalists who work for overseas outlets and more than 100 new international voters. “The depth, diversity and size of the voting body now is historic and includes voters from 62 countries,” she said. “It is also a majority of women and those who self-identify as minorities and LGBTQIA+.”
The HFPA also killed the practice of accepting gifts and started a hotline for folks to report malfeasance “which have already resulted in the expulsion of certain members,” said Hoehne. Some members still earn salaries, though Hoehne describes them as “small” stipends for people who also work on HFPA committees.
“They’re journalists and they’re making their income as journalists,” she continued. “Before, most foreign correspondents working in the U.S. were employed on retainers and operated bureaus here. But it all fell apart with the closure of outlets and mass layoffs. Most of those bureaus were lost and replaced with freelance work. So, finding alternative means to support journalists with other work was what we did. However, this is only a supplement to their journalistic income and by no means a full-time salary.”
Whether those changes are enough remains the million dollar question. We already know it’s not for Brendan Fraser, who made it clear he won’t attend the kudofest after the 2003 groping incident by the ex-HFPA chief. Fraser stands to earn plenty of attention for his work on The Whale, but he won’t go looking for it at the Beverly Hilton.
“I have more history with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association than I have respect for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” he told GQ. “No, I will not participate… It’s because of the history that I have with them. And my mother didn’t raise a hypocrite.”
One source at a Big Three agency tells Deadline that it feels like everyone is in a “wait-and-see scenario”: when agents were asked at a recent staff meeting what kind of response they anticipated from nominees on Golden Globes morning, they shared the consensus that it was “too early to tell.”
“After nominations is when you’re going to really see who’s going to campaign. It’s going to be interesting because on one end, you can use that obviously to drive forward your Oscars push. But at what price?” the source recalled from the conversation. “I think you’re going to see that with some of the talent…people are going to hold back and see who sticks their neck out first, or if they do, and sort of go with the crowd that way.”
The core sentiment expressed by this source is a pervasive one; while the HFPA’s efforts to reform in the wake of recent controversies are appreciated, the level of transformation accomplished to date within the Globes org is “just not enough.”
“It’s complicated, isn’t it?” a top publicist relayed to Deadline about whether they would advise their A-list clients to participate and even attend the Globes next month. “I don’t trust them, despite all the changes they’ve made. Many of the same old members who were the problem are still there. But, it is a competitive season and everyone’s looking for an edge, and winning a Golden Globe used to kind of provide that going into the Oscars. So, I’m looking at it on a case-by-case basis, consulting with clients on what they want to do.”
“Too many members are still paid salaries by the HFPA, that tells me all I need to know about how much they’ve changed,” added a prominent producer. “Still self-serving, still protecting their own beyond reason. This isn’t change, it’s not even window dressing, it’s manipulation.”
Not everyone in town shares the same ambivalence. A few appreciate the constant stream of emails from Hoehne, who has vowed to diligently keep “representatives informed of our changes and reforms at every step and continue in our transparency and openness.”
“I’ve been on all the emails with Helen Hoehne and I think they’ve made a real effort to reboot their organization,” revealed one longtime publicist. “I think they deserve a chance to come back. I really do. They’re more inclusive. They’re not gonna be exclusionary. They have a long history, and it’s been checkered. I just think about what a joke they were, and how they’ve wielded too much power for too long. But it’s nice to see that they’ve been forced to have a real reckoning. Based on all the correspondence I’ve been reading, I think that they have accomplished that.”
A veteran manager thinks too many people take the Golden Globes exposure for granted.
“I didn’t even know what The Handmaid’s Tale was until I saw it on the Golden Globes,” said the manager, who has at least one client who’s all but assured a nomination Monday. “I had never heard of Killing Eve until I heard about it on the show. It turns people on to our industry. People all over the world watch this. It also employs a lot of people. I’m not talking about the movie stars. I’m not worried about about film executives. I’m talking about the people who lay down the red carpet, the dry cleaners, the seamstresses, the makeup artists. I don’t think that’s a bad thing for our town.”
After a year’s hiatus, NBC will air the Golden Globes ceremony live on January 10. Jerrod Carmichael will host.