Not all HFPA members wanted Ricky Gervais back as Golden Globes host
No one was safe from Ricky Gervais' wrath at last January's Golden Globes. Besides A-listers such as Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp being the butt of the British comedian's insults, Gervais had no problem taking on the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the organization that hired him for the job in the first place.
"I had to help the HFPA president off the toilet and pop his teeth back in," he said of then-HFPA President Philip Berk, after suggesting that the organization accepted bribes in exchange for statuettes.
But that didn't stop the HFPA from bringing Gervais back for a third time to host the show on Jan. 15. The vote, held this morning, was not unanimous, with 16 members voting against the acerbic host. Forty-six voted for Gervais.
According to a blog post on the HFPA website, Gervais was brought back into the fold when he met with the new HFPA president, Aida Takla-O’Reilly, in Paris last month. Said the post, "While many welcome Gervais’s return, not everyone is happy with the decision because last year his blunt one-liners targeting big-name celebrities caused anger and resentment in some quarters."
According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, the majority of the dissenters were older members who found Gervais's material last year insulting and were concerned that some of the A-list stars on the receiving end of the jokes wouldn't return for more abuse.
"My worry was that he was insulting, and when I invite someone to my house, they don't insult me," said longtime HFPA member Judy Solomon, who writes for an Israeli publication. "But this is show business. I guess I'm old-fashioned."
But the majority of the membership voted for Gervais, dismissing the celebrity complaints and feeling enthusiastic about his return. "This is a clever decision," said HFPA member Gabriel Lerman, who represents Spain in the organization. "Gervais was very funny, and we were very enthusiastic to bring him back."
There was also some wariness that Gervais, who in September wrote on his blog that he would host a live podcast on Golden Globe night with some famous friends such as Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Jon Stewart and Larry David to comment live on the night's proceedings, would take away from the show's ratings.
A 2011 nominee who was in the Beverly Hilton ballroom last year acknowledged that the awkwardness could be felt at the ceremony. But the person also speculated that ratings may have triumphed ego. “This is a question of which master is being served, and the network is a big one,” said the nominee, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the relationship with the HFPA.
Ratings for the last show were about the same as those for the 2010 program, with 17 million viewers tuning in to the three-hour broadcast.
The person also pointed out an HFPA conundrum: “If they brought Ricky back, they knew they could face a backlash from some people in Hollywood. But if they didn’t bring him back, they’d look like they didn’t have a sense of humor.”
— Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Comedian Ricky Gervais and partner Jane Fallon arrive at the 68th Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills on Jan. 16. Photo credit: Mario Anzuoni, Reuters.