May 16, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Golden Globes: The cast of Hollywood’s latest insider drama

Over its nearly eight-decade history, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the tiny, 86-member group of foreign journalists that doles out the Golden Globes, has weathered a series of embarrassing scandals and lawsuits and has been mercilessly mocked even from the stage of its own awards show. Still, the group has never faced as grave a threat to its very existence as it does today.

In the wake of a Feb. 21 Times investigation that highlighted allegations of ethical lapses by the group as well as the lack of any Black members in the organization, the HFPA has faced blistering criticism inside Hollywood and beyond. Viewer ratings for this year’s Golden Globes show, which was held under a cloud of controversy, plummeted more than 60% from last year, placing the group in deeper peril.

Now, as a self-imposed May 6 deadline rapidly approaches for the HFPA to reveal its promised plans for reforms, the association’s often ham-fisted response to the crisis has raised questions whether it has the capacity or the self-awareness to enact the “transformational change” it has promised.

Here are some of the key players in the drama as it has played out:

Meher Tatna, HFPA board chair

Meher Tatna has frequently been the HFPA’s public face.

(Chris Pizzello / Invision/AP)

A former president of the HFPA, Tatna has held a number of leadership positions on the board since joining the organization in 2002 and has frequently been the group’s public face in recent years. Tatna, who was born in India but represents Singapore, has been credited with helping boost the HFPA’s philanthropy.

Ali Sar, HFPA board president

Ali Sar on this year's Golden Globes red carpet

HFPA President Ali Sar has been a member of the group for more than 35 years.

(Todd Williamson / NBC)

A member of the HFPA for more than 35 years, Sar was named president of the group last August following the death of Italian journalist Lorenzo Soria. Sar has covered entertainment for publications in his native Turkey and Argentina and formerly served as managing editor of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Helen Hoehne, HFPA board vice president

Helen Hoehne on the Golden Globes red carpet

Helen Hoehne is believed by some to be angling to become the HFPA’s next president.

(Todd Williamson / NBC)

Along with Tatna and Sar, Hoehne took the stage at February’s Globes to deliver a brief statement about the group’s lack of Black members, saying, “Just like in film and television, representation is vital.” Even as insiders say she is angling to become the group’s next president, Hoehne’s previous work in publicity while serving as an HFPA director has raised questions about possible conflicts of interest.

Ava DuVernay, filmmaker

Writer-director Ava DuVernay poses for a portrait against a blue background

Writer-director Ava DuVernay helped lead the #TimesUpGlobes social media protest.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The director of “Selma” and “13th,” DuVernay, along with powerhouse TV producer Shonda Rhimes, helped lead the #TimesUpGlobes social media protest in the days leading up to the Golden Globe awards and met with a coalition of Hollywood publicists to share her own experiences with the group. “The truth that’s not often discussed is that awards play a part in the economic reality of Black filmmakers, artists of color and women creators in this business,” DuVernay wrote on Twitter the day of the Globes ceremony.

Tina Tchen, Time’s Up CEO

Time's Up CEO Tina Tchen

Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen has called for sweeping reforms at the HFPA.

(Gittings Photography)

Three years after Time’s Up used the Globes as a platform to launch its movement, Tchen has helped spearhead the protest against the HFPA. Immediately following the Feb. 28 telecast, Tchen publicly called on the HFPA and NBC to undertake sweeping reforms and has since kept up the pressure in partnership with the advocacy group Color of Change and a group of more than 100 Hollywood publicity firms.

Shaun Harper, diversity consultant

USC professor and diversity consultant Shaun Harper

Shaun Harper was hired on March 9 to serve for five years as the HFPA’s diversity consultant and quit less than six weeks later.

(Bradford Rogne Photography)

A professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business and an expert in racial, gender and LGBTQ issues, Harper was hired March 9 to serve for five years as the HFPA’s diversity consultant. Less than six weeks later, Harper quit the position, writing in a statement, “I no longer have confidence in our ability to collaboratively deliver the transformational change that the industry and the people in it whom I deeply respect are demanding of you.”

Judy Smith, crisis PR guru

Judy Smith speaks into a microphone

Judy Smith, having grown increasingly frustrated with the HFPA’s handling of the crisis, quit along with Harper.

(Lisa Lake / Getty Images)

One of Hollywood’s most renowned fixers and the inspiration for the character of Olivia Pope on ABC’s “Scandal,” Smith was retained by the HFPA’s law firm Latham & Watkins in March to help the group navigate its public relations troubles. On April 20, having grown increasingly frustrated with the HFPA’s handling of the crisis, she quit along with Harper.

Phil Berk, former HFPA president

Philip Berk at a lectern with the words Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Philip Berk had long been a divisive figure within the HFPA and was expelled in April after emailing an article to members that called Black Lives Matter “a racist hate movement.”

(Michael Tran / FilmMagic)

An eight-term past president of the HFPA, Berk was expelled from the organization two days after emailing an article to the entire membership that described Black Lives Matter as “a racist hate movement.” The 88-year-old South African had long been a divisive figure within the group, of which he’d been a member for 44 years. Actor Brendan Fraser accused Berk of groping him during a luncheon in 2003, a claim Berk disputed.

Kjersti Flaa, HFPA critic, journalist

Kjersti Flaa at her home in West Hollywood.

Kjersti Flaa, a Norwegian journalist based in Los Angeles, sued the HFPA in 2020 after being denied membership.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

After being twice rejected by the HFPA, Flaa sued the group in August, accusing it of institutionalizing a “culture of corruption,” unfairly barring qualified applicants and monopolizing all-important press access while improperly subsidizing its members’ income. Flaa’s suit, which was joined by Spanish journalist Rosa Gamazo Robbins, was dismissed in March. She is appealing the ruling.

Craig Robinson, chief diversity officer NBCUniversal

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson says the network is working behind the scenes to help institute reforms at the HFPA.

(NBCUniversal)

Amid growing criticism of NBC’s relative silence about the Globes controversy, Robinson told The Times in mid-March that the network was working behind the scenes with the HFPA and Dick Clark Productions to help institute reforms. “We are taking these issues very seriously, and we also understand our role and the importance of our role in encouraging HFPA to make what we deem to be necessary changes — and we are using that influence,” said Robinson, an executive vice president at NBCUniversal.

Times staff writers Stacy Perman and Meg James contributed to this report.