The controversy over Viggo Mortensen's use of the word N during a recent question and answer session for his movie "Green Paper" seems to be over, but can he and the film recover enough to emerge as a true contender for prizes? ?
In the days immediately following the incident, the bright profiles of USA Today's tastes ("Finally, an Oscar for Viggo?", The headline asked) and reflections on the movie about the race about which it was overlooked. or the mention of the incident is omitted completely. To his credit, the actor quickly apologized for using the word, which he delivered during a conversation with Mahershala Ali, coordinator of Green Book, and with the programmer and moderator of Film Independent, Elvis Mitchell, just over a week ago.
"I was trying to point out that the extreme and dehumanizing ugliness that this word evokes, the hateful attitude behind it, has not disappeared just because white people no longer use it as a racist insult," he wrote in a statement published after Tweets surprised of the projection emerged online.
Ali sent his own statement in the hours following Mortensen's apology, recognizing how inappropriate the word was but accepting the contrition of his co-star, nonetheless.
Mortensen has continued appearing in the awards season campaign and is presented for interviews, is presented at the premiere of the film in New York and hits the Ball of the Governor. On Sunday, Mortensen received a standing ovation at the Academy's official exhibition in the "Green Book". On Monday, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced that it would receive its American Riviera Award, and the annual Palm Springs festival awards the film its annual Vanguard Award. In turn, the industry, and the general public, seem to have accepted their contrition.
"I think there is a short lapse of memory," said another major Hollywood awards consultant, "otherwise, this whole industry would collapse." What could hurt his chances of Oscar being more were the numbers at the box office this weekend. week ".
In fact, a limited release got $ 313,000 for the movie on 25 screens. Word of mouth was expected to increase that number, especially after the surprise victory of the public's choice at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The movie is about to expand significantly in 1,000 theaters for the weekend of Thanksgiving, when it will have a lot of competition from the last entry of "Fantastic Beasts", "Creed II", "Ralph Breaks the Internet" and " The Grinch. " aimed at generating $ 8 million during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend.
If the industry has largely forgiven Mortensen for his comments, that is somewhat surprising. The use of a language of racial charge and, in particular, that the insult has become a definitive line from which, once crossed, it is almost impossible to return. In the past five months, two top executives, Jonathan Friedland of Netflix and Amy Powell of Paramount Pictures, were fired for using the insult in the same way as Mortensen, while discussing hate speech in the presence of people of color.
The consequences have also been severe for public figures who have made hurtful or prejudiced comments about race. Roseanne Barr was fired from her ABC series "Roseanne" after making a joke about Valerie Jarrett that many considered racist. Similarly, Megyn Kelly was expelled from NBC News after thinking it might be okay to wear a black face on Halloween.
"The people who work with Viggo really like him a lot, but he knows better. He has been around long enough. "Obviously, I was trying to make a statement in a conversation and it is difficult in this charged environment to say what is forgivable and what is not," said a veteran film executive who is also an Oscar voter. Variety.
While the Mortensen incident seems to have been contained, the long-term effect could stop the actor's unexpected 60-year career in the Oscar for Best Actor this year.
"I would not say at this time that their chances are affected, due to the speed with which this disappeared, but do not forget that the demography within the Academy has changed and is changing," said the executive, referring to the story. Breaking the diversity among the 928 people invited to join the film academy this year.
Another potential threat that makes Mortensen vulnerable is the appearance of Christian Bale in the race. The actor is generating a strong and early word of mouth for his transformative work in the "Vice" of Adam McKay, where the chameleon star weighed 45 pounds and a mountain of prosthetics to become an impressive Dick Cheney facsimile.
The presence of Bale not only divides the field by the presumed Bradley Cooper ("A Star is Born"), but is instantly a "tastier" option compared to Mortensen, another voter said. There is also the persistent threat of Rami Malek, who emerged as the sole contender for the stressful release of Freddie Mercury's biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody."
There is a possibility that the message behind "Green Book", a production of Participant Media and the release of Universal Pictures, may still win over the audience and find momentum for the February Oscars. But even the main lessons of the film do not resonate with some critics, who believe that the film is deaf about the racial prejudices it seeks to illuminate and deals with the historical mistreatment of black Americans with a subtlety that is inappropriate, finding humor where there is. any.
In particular, several have lamented a scene in which the character of Mortensen, a rough Italian hired to drive Ali's Jamaican American pianist across the south, teaches his client how to properly eat fried chicken.
"[Mortenson] "He even insists that he is the blackest of the two because of his working class background," cultural analyst Cate Young wrote in his review of Jezebel. She also touched the actor using the racial insult.
"Honestly, it is difficult to worry about the incident because it is so indicative of the elimination in which the target audience will be involved with this film," he concluded.