Edward Norton has been nominated for three Oscars, but he’s not happy that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has been seduced by a “game of monetization.”
The 2016 Academy Awards are not until February, yet the race has already begun and predictions are already rolling in. Norton told Indiewire in a new interview that he’s concerned the process has moved away an academic threshold to a business looking to make a profit.
“I think the awards season has become this thing that has metastasized. I think something unholy has happened,” he said while at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. “The Academy is a group of people who make films — six or 7,000 people who are the core of the industry. That’s a thing completely unto itself. Past that, every single thing that transpires between November and February is awards created by bodies of critics… Unfortunately, the reality of what’s happened is that what started off on an almost academic and critical-slash-journalist footing has — more than people want to acknowledge — become a game of monetization.”
Norton continues to explain that the National Board of Review used to be a little function at Tavern on the Green, but has since become a major event at Cipriani’s Midtown where the Academy is selling thousands of tables, as well as profiting off a broadcast deal from a cable channel.
“All the guild awards used to be private,” Norton said. “Now, they’re also sponsored, televised on Bravo or NBC. They’re making money. Everything has turned into a monetization opportunity.”
The 45-year-old actor not only believes the increasing monetization of awards season has a psychological impact on how the public views the Academy Awards, but is also taking a toll on the financial success of a film, and used his last Oscar-winning project, “Birdman,” as an example.
“The financials on ‘Birdman’ are negatively impacted by the awards season because the studios need to service two dozen things,” Norton, who received a nomination for his performance in the comedy, said. “It’s millions of dollars getting added to the negative side of the balance sheet for a film like ‘Birdman.’ It actually increases the difficulty of that film becoming financially successful and perversely increases the sense that these films are risky.”
Norton believes he has a solution, though.
“I think the Academy could do things. Nobody in the industry cares about any of it except the Academy, which carries weight, because they are peers. The rest of it is seen as a dog and pony show,” Norton explained. “The Academy, which is a private organization, could save the industry by saying, ‘It’s our award and we can do whatever we want.’ They could say that any film putting out paid solicitation ads of any kind — all these ‘for your consideration’ ads that cost millions and millions of dollars, which just solicit awards — they could say that any film using them is disqualified from the Academy Awards. It would end overnight.”
While it may seem like a radical proposal, Norton believes that the studios would be thrilled.
“The studios would fall over dead, they’d be so happy,” Norton said. “They don’t want to spend that money.”