N.Y. Film Critics Circle Emails Reveal ‘Damage Control’

'12 Years a Slave' distributor irked after awards heckling

The New York Film Critics Circle is reeling today after its annual gala made headlines for a heckling incident between one of its members and “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen.

As first reported by Variety last night, CityArts editor Armond White started to shout a string of nasty comments to McQueen as he was accepting his prize on-stage. “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man,” yelled White, who had previously panned the film. “F—you. Kiss my ass.”

The organization has set an emergency meeting for Monday, Jan. 13 at Lincoln Center to discuss what to do about the situation.

Variety has learned that chairman Joshua Rothkopf, a senior writer for Time Out New York, sent a mass email to the other members after the ceremony. The subject line was “Ruined.”

“I was looking forward to sending out a post-show email of thanks to everyone who helped make last night so special,” the email said. “Instead, I’m met this morning with links to no less than TEN pieces of reporting from around the world — not about Harry Belafonte’s magnificent speech or the two standing ovations, but about the heckling. I also have a perturbed email from Barry Dale Johnson at Fox Searchlight that will require a response. In short: damage control.”

“It amazes me that we have members who are so self-serving, they would sacrifice the decorum of the group … solely to satisfy their egos,” Rothkopf added. “Never thought I’d write this, but after months of event planning and two years of service as an officer, I’m happy to be done with it.”

A dozen or so other critics started to weigh in, including New York Post’s Lou Lumenick, who asked, “Do we really want to keep fueling the story?”

“You know what, Lou? Coming from you, that’s a fucking laugh,” Rothkopf promptly wrote back to the entire chain. “I have no problem saying this now with the event over, but at this upcoming meeting, we’re also going to discuss YOUR ridiculous confrontation with me at the voting meeting, YOUR flagrant reporting of the vote totals and YOUR expulsion.”

In a public apology from the organization first posted by Deadline, Rothkopf is quoted as saying the group is taking “disciplinary action.”

But another source with close ties to the organization questioned if that’s possible, since the Critics Circle’s bylaws don’t include a method for expelling one of its members. In other words, they might have to write a law about heckling and see what happens next year.

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