How Tom Cruise, Scarlett Johansson and NBC might have just gutted the Golden Globes

The past few weeks haven’t exactly been a golden age for the Golden Globes. The annual event honoring film and television has been embroiled in near-constant controversy following a February investigation by the Los Angeles Timesthat discovered the group behind the Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, did not have a single Black member among its ranks, among other troubling revelations.

By mid-March, Hollywood’s leading publicists joined with representatives from Time’s Up and Color of Change had taken a stand against the HFPA and demanded reform. Last week, the 87-person HFPA announced its proposed changes, which, rather than satisfying critics, set off a new firestorm that is now threatening the very existence of the Globes.

There have been boycott announcements from Netflix, Amazon and Warner Media, as well as strong criticism from celebrities (and Avengers costars) Scarlett Johansson, who leveled charges of sexism at the HFPA “bordering on sexual harassment,” and Mark Ruffalo.

But a blistering one-two punch came within minutes Monday. NBC struck the initial blow, announcing the network will not air the 2022 Globes due the ongoing controversy — marking the first time the Globes won’t air on NBC since 1996. “We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform,” the network said in a statement. “However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right. As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes.”

Tom Cruise made waves moments later, returning the three Globes he has won to protest the HFPA.

With NBC pulling the plug — and presumably suspending its lucrative broadcasting contract — the HFPA loses its main source of income and its most visible platform. Since NBC began televising the Globes in the 1990s, the event has gained tremendous influence in Hollywood.

Ultimately, though, the Cruise news could be more impactful. The Top Gunner’s actions could lead to what many industry insiders believe is a long overdue divorce between the HFPA and its cozy relationship with the film and television industries.

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The actor — whose three Globes came for Born on the Fourth of July (Best Actor, Drama), Jerry Maguire (Best Actor, Comedy or Musical) and Magnolia (Best Supporting Actor) — remains one of the most powerful, influential actors in show business and commands a worldwide following. And unlike someone like Ruffalo, a tireless activist when not acting, Cruise rarely engages politically. His move could presage similar actions from other Golden Globe winners.

Signage advertising the 2021 Golden Globes hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

While distancing itself from the 2022 ceremony, NBC did leave the window open for a reunion. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023,” the network’s statement continued. Perhaps helping NBC decide to pause the Globes for a year: the 2021 ceremony was the lowest-rated installment ever, with fewer than 7 million people tuning in, part of a disturbing trend that has seen ratings for all awards shows plummet.

The Globes has long embraced its image as an actor-friendly party. While some groused about the HFPA’s questionable ethics, few dared to speak out publicly against the powerful organization for fear of repercussions. Notably Gary Oldman ranted in 2014 that the Globes were “a meaningless event” and called the HFPA “90 nobodies having a wank.”

Gary Oldman poses with the trophy for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama during the 75th Golden Globe Awards in 2018. (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

But Oldman changed his tune during the 2018 awards season, where he attended HFPA events and thanked the group upon receiving a Golden Globe for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, en route to winning an Oscar.

This time, however, the stakes feel different. Cruise’s actions reverberated around the industry, as have the public comments of Johansson, Ruffalo and prominent filmmakers like Ava DuVernay.

Johansson’s words in particular struck a chord in Hollywood. “As an actor promoting a film, one is expected to participate in awards season by attending press conferences as well as awards shows. In the past, this has often meant facing sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment. It is the exact reason why I, for many years, refused to participate in their conferences,” Johansson, a five-time Globes nominee, said in a statement released over the weekend. “The HFPA is an organization that was legitimized by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition and the industry followed suit. Unless there is necessary fundamental reform within the organization, I believe it is time that we take a step back from the HFPA and focus on the importance and strength of unity within our unions and the industry as a whole.”

In a statement Monday afternoon, the HFPA attempted a conciliatory tone. “Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority for our organization,” the group said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.” The group also listed a detailed calendar outlining its reform efforts. The response has so far been muted.

The Globes banks on A-list stars and its national broadcast, and with those stars — and the studios, networks and publicists who support them — abandoning ship and NBC cutting the cord, the HFPA needs to reboot to survive. The clock is ticking.

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