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How Will Hollywood Harassment Scandals Impact Awards Season?

With new allegations surfacing daily and once-respected artists falling from grace, Hollywood finds itself on edge amid a sexual misconduct scandal that has everyone wondering, “What’s next?”

Going by the calendar, awards season voting is next. Ballots go out to the Screen Actors Guild’s nominating committee Nov. 16, and before long, critics groups will be chiming in with year-end superlatives. A number of the disconcerting stories making headlines are bound to have an impact as the atmosphere continues to be one of paranoia and dread.

“There have been whisper campaigns and accusations of plagiarism in the past, but this is different,” said veteran awards strategist Tony Angellotti. “This is beyond bad behavior like a temper tantrum, which everyone sees every day of the week in Hollywood. We’re all just basically moving through life as if we’re shell-shocked all the time: ‘What other shoe is going to drop? Is it going to be part of my life?’”

For Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World,” disgraced star Kevin Spacey was tipped early on for supporting actor consideration. TriStar Pictures had planned an extensive campaign centered on his transformation; the two-time Oscar-winning actor is — or rather, was — unrecognizable under mounds of movie makeup in the film. But following a Variety report revealing that plans for Spacey’s campaign had been scrapped, the decision was made to excise him from the film entirely. Scott recast with Christopher Plummer in the role of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, and TriStar still plans to make its Dec. 22 release.

At this point, however, the film is expected to miss a number of early deadlines. There will be no SAG screenings or DVD screeners for the nominating committee. Critics’ Choice Awards voters, as well as the New York and Los Angeles critics groups, won’t be able to consider it, nor will the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. (meaning no Golden Globes potential). TriStar is aiming to have a showable film by Dec. 15, according to a studio spokesperson.

Spacey’s situation also caused waves in the TV world, as Netflix ground production on the final season of “House of Cards” to a halt. The actor has won two SAG Awards for his work on the series, which put the streaming company’s original programming on the map, and the show has been a Golden Globes and Emmys mainstay.

In terms of year-end awards positioning, certain ships have already sailed. A promo reel featuring Spacey has gone out to SAG voters, for instance. But Netflix has time to pivot; the expectation is for the company to tone down the overall campaign while not sacrificing the contributions of others on the series. Awards support for cast and crew outside of Spacey will not change, a source says.

“I think the impact is gigantic for a campaign,” said awards strategist Richard Licata of Licata & Co. “There are ad deadlines and budgets attached to these campaigns. So when there’s news like this and you have to change your plans, in a lot of cases you have to cancel some of the advertising you booked in July and August. So there’s money lost there.”

“The impact is gigantic for a campaign. There are ad deadlines and budgets attached. So when there’s news like this and you have to change your plans, there’s money lost.
Awards strategist Richard Licata

Also among the losers: Sony Music-owned distributor The Orchard, which acquired Louis C.K.’s film “I Love You, Daddy” at the Toronto Film Fest for $5 million. Screeners of the film were arriving on voters’ doorsteps Nov. 9 just as news broke that multiple women had accused the Emmy-winning comedian of masturbating in front of them — charges the comic confirmed were true. The Orchard had an awards strategy in place that might have helped the company recoup its investment. The next day it announced it had completely scrapped plans to release the film.

Amazon has also been embroiled in the scandal. Not only did executive Roy Price step down amid allegations of sexual harassment, but Jeffrey Tambor, star of the company’s flagship series “Transparent,” was hit with a harassment claim as well. “They’re really shaken by all of this,” one consultant said. No firm decisions have been made on strategy, but insiders speculated that the spotlight could shift away from Tambor. As with “House of Cards,” there are other supporting players to highlight on “Transparent,” such as Judith Light and Gaby Hoffmann, but there’s also a sense the show is trending downward with awards anyway; Tambor was outmatched by actors like William H. Macy (“Shameless”) and Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) last season.

For an increasing number of Hollywood players, however, awards are the last thing on their minds.

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