By Drew Ursel
Believe it or not, the academy’s history of PR troubles didn’t start with #OscarsSoWhite.
Every year, fashion reporters swarm the Academy Awards. Yet, some of the boldest statements have happened around the Oscar podium. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from the academy’s storied PR past.
- Oscar Selfies
When Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Oscars in 2014, Samsung spent $20 million on advertising. Yet, their biggest ROI that night came from Ellen’s star-studded selfie taken with the company’s new phone. It was a move valued by advertising firm Publicis at upwards of $1 billion. DeGeneres’s greatest return for the company may have been shrugging off any criticism for the snapshot.
- Of Human Bondage
Bette Davis decided to get even after the 1934 Oscars snubbed her for a critically acclaimed role in the film Of Human Bondage by attending the awards ceremony in protest. Davis’s omission caused media backlash and prompted the nominees for best actress to threaten a boycott. The academy folded, making Davis a write-in nominee. It restructured the Oscar voting system and hired accounting firm PricewaterCooper as a vote counter.
- Michael Moore and the Iraq War
On the 2002 Oscar stage, filmmaker Michael Moore criticized then president George W. Bush and the Iraq War. Not the most popular opinion at the time, especially in a country still healing from the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001. Moore’s speech was more successful in eliciting boos than antiwar sentiment. The academy wisely stayed silent on the controversy.
- Marlon Brando and Wounded Knee
Marlon Brando raised awareness of the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff between federal agents and members of the American Indian Movement during his speech time for the Best Actor Oscar when he sent Sacheen Littlefeather in his place. The academy forced Littlefeather to ad lib her speech, but she later read Brando’s 15 pages of prepared remarks in a press interview backstage to a more positive reception.
- The Telegram from Vietnam
In 1975 Hollywood producer Bert Schneider used his time to read a telegram from the Viet Cong — a controversial move since the United States was still at war with them. While Schneider’s actions were on par with other Vietnam War demonstrations at the time, the academy vocally distanced itself from his comments on the war, receiving public criticism from several prominent Hollywood stars.