In years to come people will know where they were when they heard that Brangelina was no more.
Yes, unless you’ve been meditating under a rock with earplugs and potato slices covering each eye for the past fortnight, you will know that the greatest celebrity portmanteau of our time is over. After gushing for 12 years about what an amazing father he is to their 839 children, Angelina’s opening divorce salvo threw Brad into the most unsavoury of pits; that of a possibly dodgy dad. It’s not as murky as the Woody Allen allegations or as icky as Roman Polanski’s conviction but just the mention of children in the context of possible harm can tarnish a reputation and career for life.
So, while anyone with access to Wifi is currently gossip-guessing who did what to cause the implosion, what impact, if any, do movie star scandals have on the public (via box office) and industry peers (via awards)?
The Brangelina brand was, of-course, born in scandal. Pitt and Jolie famously fell in love on the set of Mr and Mrs Smith while Pitt was still married to Friends star Jennifer Aniston. The divorce divided the gossip world. Team Aniston T shirts outsold the team Jolie ones 3-1. However, fans and detractors alike of the new coupling were curious enough to turn up to the cinema to see the much talked about chemistry which had destroyed a marriage. Mr and Mrs Smith made over $478 million at the worldwide box office and a gossip magazine behemoth was spawned. Although missing the dramas, diamonds and divorces, Pitt and Jolie became the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton of the austerity era. That earlier couple too started their tempestuous tabloid journey on a movie set. Cleopatra was an epic and Taylor, the most beautiful woman to ever grace the silver screen was paid an astronomical $1 million to play the title role, However, despite the public’s insatiable interest in the couple’s lives, the film itself flopped when released. Adultery was still a big thing in 1963. Perhaps the masses were less inclined to reward it with their dollars even as they lapped up the scandal in magazines.
40 years later the public also didn’t warm to another film that helped break up a longstanding marriage. Although Russell Crowe was riding high on the Gladiator afterglow, Proof of Life, his film with Meg Ryan failed with the public despite much attention to their on set affair which ended Ryan’s marriage to Dennis Quaid.
Does morality play a part? It’s hard to say. Jennifer Aniston was widely sympathised with as the publicly humiliated wife but people still went to see her nemesis Jolie with Pitt. Jolie is probably the most polarizing female celebrity since Madonna both with the public and in Hollywood. While she has had her career successes during the decade long ‘triangle controversy, it’s also easy to see why her fine turn in A Mighty Heart in 2007 failed to garner her an Oscar nomination It was at the height of the tabloid frenzy and some in the industry privately believe that the snub was not unrelated to the lurid weekly headlines.
Voters are only human. They have their opinions about what they like and don’t like in their stars. They didn’t like the story of Russell Crowe verbally abusing a TV executive after the 2002 Baftas and allegedly pushing him up against a wall. The incident possibly cost Crowe a back to back Oscar win for A Beautiful Mind.
However, Oscar voters have not shied away from awarding convicted rapist Polanski (his victim was aged 13) their highest accolade. His 2002 film The Pianist won 3 Academy Awards, including best director for Polanski. He was unable to collect it in person as he fled the USA before being sentenced for the rape and therefore is a ‘wanted man’ there.
Similarly, Woody Allen remains a perennial Oscar favourite despite being accused of sexually abusing his 7 year old daughter and marrying an adopted daughter of his former partner Mia Farrow. He has had several nominations and 1 win since and has directed 3 actresses to wins. While some fans openly say they no longer watch his movies due to the allegations, which they believe, he also continues to have devoted fans for whom his art transcends unproven accusations.
Oscars 2017 will be interesting again. Brad Pitt’s new WW2 film Allied is being released during awards season, co-starring another Oscar favourite Marion Cotillard, who unwittingly got caught up in the Brangelina blow up. With Pitt being a successful producer of recent Oscar winners The Departed and 12 years a slave and an actor nominee, he and the film might have been shoo ins for nominations just weeks ago. It remains to be seen what fresh dirt is flung at him during the ‘season’ and how much sticks. Nate Parker is another scandal for Oscars 2017. 17 years ago he was tried and acquitted of an horrific rape. Despite the acquittal, the transcripts of the case make for grim reading and Parker’s obnoxious interviews since about the case are not helping him in his bid for awards glory. Sadly, in the wake of the Oscars so white claims, race is featuring heavily in his particular mess and clouding the issues.
Overall, it’s hard to gauge how the public and voters respond to scandal. A lot seems to depend on how well the star is regarded generally. If he/she is loved and/or admired the passing of time seems to heal and they can be allowed back into the fold. And if they were becoming has beens anyway, then they get kicked to the kerb. Just ask Mel Gibson. Box office and Oscar king one minute, a pariah the next. Unless, ofcourse he makes The Passion of the Christ 2……