”Some will say, ‘Thanks but no thanks,’ some will say, ‘OK, let’s give them a shot,“ veteran publicist Simon Halls says
While the Golden Globes are officially coming back to NBC this January after a one-year hiatus, many in Hollywood are still playing “wait and see” over how whether to participate, with one top publicist telling TheWrap that stars, studios and publicists are “cautiously assessing everything” before determining whether to welcome back the much the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with open arms.
Amanda Lundberg, CEO of 42West who was among the more than 100 publicity executives who declined to participate in HFPA events since March 2021, said publicists and stars are making their own determination on whether the HFPA has instituted enough reforms to warrant participation in its annual awards show.
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“There’s no consensus. People will make their own decisions,” Lundberg told TheWrap. “We don’t have to agree on everything, we just have to respect each other.”
Lundberg’s clients include “Top Gun: Maverick” star Tom Cruise, who famously returned his three Golden Globe trophies in May 2021 amid a public outcry over the HFPA’s lack of diversity and history of self-dealing. And while Lundberg declined to discuss whether Cruise or her other clients might participate this January, many industry insiders said stars are unlikely to commit until nominations are unveiled in December.
Still, there has been some movement to welcome the HFPA back into the industry fold. Screening links to films are being sent to members as well as the 103 new nonmember voters the HFPA recently added. And HFPA journalists are being allowed to attend press junkets and given access to talent “as appropriate” if someone has an assignment with a legitimate publication.
But publicists agree the days of studios, streamers and networks bending over backward to receive a Golden Globe nomination is a thing of the past.
“No one is jumping back into solo specialized press conferences for the HFPA. I don’t know anyone doing that now,” a top publicist who asked to remain anonymous said. “There has been so much out there, and there has been so much back and forth. The dust has been churned up, and now it’s starting to settle. ‘OK, what does this road look like? Is it paved, or is it still bumpy?'”
Publicists are just now having conversations with their clients about how to respond if they’re nominated for a Golden Globe. They’re pointing to new codes of conduct that HFPA members and voters are required to sign, such as banning gifts, as a step in the right direction. They’re encouraged by the addition of voters of color.
Simon Halls, the Slate PR founder and partner who reps “Empire of Light” director Sam Mendes, “Women Talking” star Frances McDormand and “Bros” writer and star Billy Eichner — all of whom could be in the awards race this year — told TheWrap that he was “cautiously” moving forward and was impressed by what he felt was “aggressive effort” by the HFPA to address diversity, equity and inclusion. Not only was he impressed by the HFPA’s leadership, including president Helen Hoehne, he argued the group felt more like a “more professional organization.”
“Everybody deserves the opportunity to transform,” Halls said, adding that if the HFPA had remained the same, it would’ve been far easier to simply say “we’re not dealing with you.”
“Some will say, ‘Thanks but no thanks,’ some will say, ‘OK, let’s give them a shot,” he added. “On the grand scale of things, it’s an awards show… My clients aren’t losing sleep.”
One publicist said that in light of the group’s recent changes, at least one top star would be “happy” to sit for HFPA interviews. And an insider with the HFPA said the tenor within the organization is “optimistic” that the newly for-profit group will still be able to host a starry awards show and are already fielding media credential requests.
At least publicly, studios haven’t shown any real urgency in crafting awards campaigns built around the Globes, and several studio insiders told TheWrap they’re each taking a “wait and see” approach to see how campaigns start to unfold over the next few months, with at least one saying they’ve yet to do any specific press conferences for HFPA members.
Still, there’s a widespread belief that any studio in the business of marketing films or shows for awards wants — and needs — the Globes to return. “The need for any marketing uplift you can find is necessary. Whether it’s an awards show that has a big television presence and nominations period that is in the sweet spot of the season, you use it,” The Angellotti Company’s Tony Angellotti said. “What we’ve found in these last two years is, we missed it.”
The HFPA had no comment for this article.
Some in the industry still have serious questions about whether or not the HFPA’s transformation is for real. One major sticking point in conversations with publicists were the 103 nonmember voters invited to determine the Globe winners, the main question being: Who the heck are they? The HFPA hustled within just the last few days to post names, photos, complete bios (including their press affiliations) of all 103 new voters to its website. The 103 nonmember voters, all of whom are critics or entertainment journalists based outside of the U.S., come from 62 countries — including Nigeria, Ghana, both of which are countries that are new to the HFPA.
That marks a change from the past, when the first top publicist said that the HFPA provided only “generic benchmarks without specificity” regarding its members and how many were actually legitimate working journalists. A second top publicist was glad to see that the “weird and anachronistic” HFPA press conferences complete with silly questions and photos with the talent seem to be behind them.
“I think that’s all gone. I know that’s all gone,” the publicist said.
The organization is eager to share its progress in increasing diversity, touting that more than 50% of the collective 200 members and nonmember voters identify as racially and ethnically diverse and 52% are women. Twenty of the total voters, or 10% in all, are Black (including six were selected last year as full-fledged HFPA members).
However, the number of HFPA voters is still dwarfed by the membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which after several years of focused expansion is now about 10,000.
Other publicists still complain that they’ve requested a meeting with acting CEO Todd Boehly and HFPA brass for months that has been acknowledged but never materialized. However, multiple publicists said that Boehly contacted them personally last week to set up such a meeting, while the second top publicist added he’s been involved with “countless calls,” including several with Boehly, and was satisfied with the updates he’d received.
Still, questions about the HFPA’s conflict of interest remain unresolved especially since it decided this summer to become a for-profit organization owned by Boehly’s Eldridge Industries — which also owns Dick Clark Productions, which produces the show, and the Beverly Hilton where the Globes are held. Previously, Eldridge also owned the media conglomerate MRC, which produces awards-seeking content like Netflix’s “Ozark.” But MRC separated from Eldridge in August.
“Are they making efforts? Yes. Do I think there are conflicts of interest? Yes,” the first top publicist said. “It feels a little funky.”
On the HFPA end, the Golden Globes’ return to NBC for its 80th annual ceremony comes not just with a new placement on a Tuesday night but also a need to prove the show can still drive ratings, interest with the general public and an acceptance from the industry. NBC, which previously had a multiyear deal expiring in 2026, agreed to a one-year contract this time — which could allow the HFPA to shop the Globes to another network or streamer next year.
“We have a lot invested in making sure this thing works,” the HFPA insider said. “If the Golden Globes goes on and is a success, the industry hope is that there are going to be some coattails that boost the awards season.”
That sentiment is echoed among others within the industry, who feel broadly that the Globes could still have a valuable place in the long awards calendar even as viewership for all awards shows has dropped (putting a cloud over the broadcast futures of the SAG Awards, the Indie Spirit Awards and the Critics Choice Awards that tried to fill the gap left by the Globes last year). In fact at the height of the controversy over the lack of Black members in the HFPA, ratings for the Globes in 2021 sank to an all-time low in the key demo of adults 18-49, settling for a 1.2 rating and 5.42 million viewers overall.