It was a big morning for 20th Century Fox, as the film studio picked up a leading 27 Golden Globes nominations on Monday. The haul was more than any other studio and more than double the number of nods racked up by any other media company. Globes voters recognized a number of different Fox releases from dramatically different genres and across the studio’s various divisions — a group that includes indie label Fox Searchlight, Fox Animation, and the main production arm, Fox.
Fox Searchlight’s “The Shape of Water,” a fairytale romance about a mute janitor who becomes enamored with a river creature, scored the most nominations, picking up seven nods. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” another Searchlight offering that follows a mother out to avenge her murdered daughter, and “The Post,” a historical drama about the publication of the Pentagon Papers, were close behind with six nominations apiece.
“I personally believe that audiences want variety and they want to be surprised and not see stories coming,” Stacey Snider, Fox’s chairman and CEO, said in an interview with Variety after the nominations were announced. “It’s incumbent on us as film executives to make sure that our studios not only thrive financially, but that they also provide opportunities to filmmakers with original visions, so that the art form continues to exist.”
Fox was also recognized for its lavish musical “The Greatest Showman,” the upcoming animated release “Ferdinand,” and the dramedy “Battle of the Sexes,” which documents a face-off between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs that mixes gender politics and tennis.
The celebration is bittersweet, however. The nominations were announced as Disney is putting the finishing touches on a megadeal to buy most of Fox’s film and television assets. If that takes place, it will likely mean that Fox’s film studio will exist in a pared-down form, releasing far fewer movies. Disney is primarily interested in big comic book or science fiction movies, and has shown little appetite for the kind of edgier, adult fare that Fox racked up Globes nominations producing. Disney only earned two Globes nominations on Monday, both of which were for the animated hit “Coco.” Snider declined to comment on the deal.
One of Fox’s major contenders, “The Post,” wasn’t even in production when the nominations were announced last year. Director Steven Spielberg read a spec script by newcomer Liz Hannah last winter and quickly fast-tracked the project. Shooting began last spring with Meryl Streep playing Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks taking on the role of legendary editor Ben Bradlee. The film follows their efforts to publish a secret military history of the Vietnam War against the objections of the Nixon administration. Its portrait of a White House hostile to a free press has clear parallels with President Trump’s antipathy toward the media.
“In this case the zeitgeist catches up to you,” said Snider. “We didn’t set out to make a movie that speaks to our present day.”
Instead, Snider said she and producer Amy Pascal were attracted to Graham’s personal history. A Georgetown doyenne, she was thrust into the world of corporate America in her mid-40s after her husband committed suicide.
“We liked this idea of a woman in business who finds her purpose — and her voice — in the middle of her life,” said Snider.
Snider was equally complimentary about Fox’s major contenders, “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards,” hailing their uncompromising visions.
“All three films reflect Fox’s commitment to auteur filmmaking,” said Snider.
It remains to be seen if that commitment will be shared by the studio’s new corporate parent, Disney. If not, Monday’s haul will carry a sad post-script.
Goodbye to all that.