Oscar Nod for Franco? Timing Will Tell
Posted January 17, 2018 5:26 p.m. EST
Oscar nominations are coming on Tuesday! Will Meryl be snubbed? Will “Get Out” get a lot of love? Unclear. But we have early answers to some of the other pressing questions of the season.
— Have the awards been horribly depressing with so many accused sexual harassers exposed? Not so much! At least not the noir-chic Golden Globes, despite a dip in the ratings.
— What are the chances of another repeat of #OscarsSoWhite? Slim, thanks to smashing performances by Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”), Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”) and Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”).
— Could “All the Money in the World” twice redeem itself, first after erasing all traces of the alleged harasser Kevin Spacey, and second after paying its male star 1,500 times more than its female star to reshoot crucial scenes? Yes! And, to be determined.
And: Can a man win an Oscar once his name is the first to come up in a Google search for “vagina guard”?
The fellow in question is, of course, James Franco, who this month won a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice Award for his performance in “The Disaster Artist.” He was also the subject of a Los Angeles Times article last week in which five women accused him of “inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior.” One of them said he had removed clear plastic shields from actresses’ private parts while filming an orgy scene in 2015 for a yet-to-be released project.
Accusations against Franco began surfacing on Twitter days earlier, during the Golden Globes, where Franco wore a pin in support of Time’s Up, the female-led anti-harassment initiative. Among the women raising the question of impropriety that night was actress Ally Sheedy, who posted and then deleted a few cryptic tweets that said, among other things, “Why was James Franco allowed in?”
These days every man in Hollywood seems to have a potential target slapped on his back, but the accusations followed a public incident in New York in 2014. That’s when Franco, then 35, tried to arrange a hookup with a 17-year-old tourist via Instagram, and later admitted to having used bad judgment.
Onto the present mess. Franco addressed the Golden Globes tweets last week on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” saying, “I have no idea what I did to Ally Sheedy.” He also said: “If I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to.” He also insisted that he fully supported women speaking out, and later told Seth Meyers in an appearance on his show that the tweets were inaccurate, but that “this is a conversation that needs to be had.”
Then on Jan. 11, The Los Angeles Times published its article, in which several women said Franco got peeved when they refused to remove their shirts during filming. Another woman, whom Franco had been seeing romantically, said that once, while they were sitting in a car, he had nudged her head down to encourage her to perform oral sex, and that “the power dynamic was really off.”
Franco’s lawyer told The Los Angeles Times that the claims “were not accurate.” (The actor’s representatives directed The New York Times to statements on the late-night shows.) But since The Los Angeles Times article came out, the actor has laid low, skipping the Critics’ Choice Awards, where he was named best actor in a comedy. His representatives did not immediately confirm reports that he will attend the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night.
Still, those in the Oscar tea leaf reading game have concluded that chances are pretty good that Franco’s name will be on the list when Oscar nominees are revealed next week.
The window for nomination voting opened Jan. 5 and closed Jan. 12, just one day after the article ran. The acting nominations are decided by the actors’ branch — at 1,218 members, the largest one in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — and many had already submitted their ballots by the time the article appeared.
Interviewing some of those voters, Glenn Whipp of The Los Angeles Times found that several regretted casting ballots for Franco yet, per academy rules, couldn’t take them back. But I am also hearing that some in the actors’ branch met the accusations against Franco with little more than a shrug, and felt they were small potatoes — especially compared with the alleged misdeeds of, say, Harvey Weinstein, to name just one.
Franco’s widely praised performance as real-life oddity Tommy Wiseau, the man behind the cult hit “The Room,” had also already earned a best actor nomination from SAG-AFTRA, the union behind the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The awards projection site Gold Derby still has Franco squeaking in, in fifth place, among the likely best-actor Oscar nominees. With Gary Oldman (“The Darkest Hour”) and Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”) dominating the race, Franco was always a long shot to win. The latest allegations make his odds even longer, the academy being particularly sensitive to how it is perceived.
But still. Franco could easily be in the running, which would hand the Oscars host, Jimmy Kimmel, a ready-made joke if there ever was one, whether Franco shows or not. But the ceremony isn’t until March 4, with each day bringing a shift in the #MeToo terrain, and each new allegation being met with a torrent of conflicting reactions. Consider all that has happened just in the week and a half since the Golden Globes:
— Mark Wahlberg and his agency donated $2 million to Time’s Up after the news broke that he’d been paid $1.5 million to reshoot “All the Money in the World” scenes, while his co-star Michelle Williams earned less than $1,000.
— Ashley Judd, one of the early Weinstein accusers and a deeply involved supporter of Time’s Up, told the BBC that Franco’s response was “terrific.” She added, “We’ve all behaved — at a certain level — unconsciously, and done things that were insensitive, inappropriate, without necessarily understanding that they were.” Franco now counts among the very few accused men to publicly garner support.
— Catherine Deneuve and more than 100 Frenchwomen signed an open letter denouncing #MeToo for conflating sexual assault with harmless flirtation. Amid the ensuing uproar, Deneuve apologized to victims she’d offended.
— Rebecca Hall and Timothée Chalamet donated their salaries from the forthcoming Woody Allen film “A Rainy Day in New York” to anti-abuse causes. In December, Allen’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, who has accused him of molesting her, wrote a letter asking why #MeToo had spared him.
— And then there are the controversial accusations, followed by a backlash, and a backlash to the backlash, against Aziz Ansari, made by an anonymous woman. (He has said he “took her words to heart and responded privately.”)
All of which is to say, who the heck knows what the climate will be like when Oscars day dawns on March 4. Just think, the awards season last year felt like a guilty diversion from the craziness unfolding on the national stage. How far we’ve come, eh?