If Christmas is right around the corner it must be time for a rival awards consultant to try and scuttle a competing campaign through rumor, innuendo or even false accusations. From “A Beautiful Mind” to “Dreamgirls” to “The Hurricane” these whispers are nothing new and have genuinely been blamed for ruining the Oscar hopes of many potential nominees or winners. On the other hand, for such accusations to reveal themselves only hours after the Golden Globe nominations were announced today is something else entirely. This year’s possible victim: Best Actor candidate Tobey Maguire.
The “Spider-Man” star was a surprise nominee this morning in the Golden Globe category of Best Actor in a Drama for his role in Jim Sheridan’s “Brothers.” Maguire had received some (emphasis on “some”) fine notices for his work, but was considered a long shot at best to land a Globe, SAG or Oscar nod. Especially after “Brothers” disappointed at the box office and with critics nationwide. And yet, when the names were announced Maguire’s was the last one revealed and a murmur began in the Beverly Hilton ballroom filled to the brim with numerous publicists and journos (this pundit was there). Firth, Bridges, Clooney and Freeman? They were expected. Maguire? Not so much.
Hours later, Hollywood’s leading lady of snarky and opinionated “exclusives,” Nikki “TOLDJA” Finke, revealed a somewhat disheartening story about how Maguire may have snuck in to the final five. According to Finke’s sources (rival awards consultants of course), Leonardo DiCaprio was so impressed by his longtime buddy’s performance in “Brothers” that he hosted a last minute party featuring Academy members and HFPA members to raise support for Maguire’s candidacy. Initially, the report was that 40 HFPA members were in attendance (the organization is currently around 80 overall) and that everyone received a SONY Blu-Ray player as a parting gift. You can immediately see how this would be seen by competing studios to influence the HFPA. It also had to be incredibly disappointing for the organizations hierarchy after they’d worked so hard to dispel their former reputation of taking lavish gifts as guarantees for nominations (Golden Glove nominee…Pia Zadora).
As Finke admits however, that really wasn’t the case. Only 15 members were in attendance and all of them were instructed to return the players immediately (if they had even left with one). But it doesn’t matter, the damage is done. Because Finke is now the go-to source for industry gossip supplanting Variety, The Hollywood Reporter or the Los Angeles Times (much to their chagrin), this story was being retold from Santa Monica to Burbank within hours of her post. And look, she’s even got this pundit writing about it. But there’s a reason and it’s not good.
Whether you support Maguire’s nomination or not, this is one of those stories that will not go away. Even though DiCaprio’s intentions were honorable to salute his friend, numerous upcoming holiday parties, dinners and New Year’s celebrations will be filled with jokes along the lines of “Don’t forget your Blu-Ray on the way out the door.” It will tarnish what would have already been a difficult campaign for Lionsgate and Maguire’s reps, especially if he doesn’t land a SAG nomination Thursday morning. This may be very difficult to recover from during an extended campaign such as this year’s Oscar race.
What really raises eyebrows is that the overall Oscar game has finally caught up to the “instant” news and headlines universe prevalent in politics, sports and gossip. The insulated industry isn’t so insulated anymore. In years past, it would take a couple of days for a rumor like this to even find it’s way onto a blog post or editorial. Not now. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen, but if I’m Maguire’s personal reps this is one celebration that sadly barely got started.
As the season heats up, look for breaking awards season news and commentary daily on Awards Campaign. For the latest, follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.