LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Every year the organizers of the Golden Globes ply the cream of Hollywood with free food and alcohol at their awards show.
The stars express their gratitude by questioning the credibility of their hosts, who write for obscure publications and are often viewed as starry-eyed groupies.
Robert De Niro, winner of a lifetime achievement award at Sunday’s ceremony, joked that many of the 80-some members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had just been deported as illegal immigrants.
The event, coming three days after a former publicist filed a lawsuit accusing the association of corruption, also saw host Ricky Gervais and actor Christian Bale fire off a few cutting remarks.
In his opening monologue, Gervais wasted no time tackling the lawsuit, which claimed the group engaged in “questionable deals” such as accepting lavish perks from studios in exchange for nominating their films.
The acerbic comedian joked that there was a “ridiculous rumor” that surprise contender “The Tourist” was nominated so that the members could hang out with the stars of the costly flop, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.
“That is rubbish. That is not the only reason,” Gervais said. “They also accepted bribes.”
Noting the lawsuit’s claim that some members were flown at studio expense to see “Burlesque” star Cher perform in Las Vegas, Gervais commented, “How the hell is that a bribe? Really? ‘Do you want to go and see Cher?’ ‘No’ ‘Why Not?’ ‘Cuz it’s not 1975.’”
The association, for its part, has said the lawsuit is “completely without merit.”
Bale, the show’s first winner for his supporting role as a washed-up boxer in “The Fighter,” said he used to consider the association’s members to be “oddball characters.” He recalled that he would attend promotional events where they would argue among themselves while ignoring him.
“Now I know who you are, and suddenly I realize how wise and spectacular and perceptive those guys really are,” he said.
Referring to the event’s nominees, Hollywood Foreign Press Association President Philip Berk told the A-list audience that “when it comes to combining art and entertainment, nobody does it better.”
But his comments may have been lost on a crowd still digesting Gervais’ introductory remark that he had to help Berk get off the toilet and put in his dentures.
De Niro revived the issue a little later with a backhanded compliment, thanking the group for its “tireless work in promoting our industry all over the world.”
Then he stuck the knife in: “The important thing is that we are all in this together, the filmmakers who make the movies and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association members, who in turn pose for pictures with the movie stars.”
The association’s reputation as a leading barometer of Oscar success has also faded. The group last year gave its top award to “Avatar,” which in turn lost the best picture Oscar race to “The Hurt Locker.” The last time the two events were in sync was in 2008 when clear favorite “Slumdog Millionaire” dominated the awards season.
But things could swing the group’s way again this year. The Globes followed the lead of the Critics’ Choice Awards two days earlier by showering multiple honors on “The Social Network.”
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Stacey Joyce