Now that the Oscars are over, “First Reformed” director Paul Schrader has been released from what he refers to as “Facebook jail” following comments the writer-director made about disgraced actor Kevin Spacey.
“First Reformed” distributor A24 asked Schrader to go dark on social media during awards season, the director wrote on Facebook, following a now-deleted November post in which he shared that he had been asked to direct a new film, and that he wanted Spacey to be the star. Given the recent legal action taken against Spacey regarding allegations of sexual abuse, the film’s producer told Schrader that hiring Spacey “is not possible.”
Schrader wrote, “I believe there are crimes in life but no crimes in art. Spacey should be punished for any crimes his actual person created. But not for art. All art is a crime. Punishing him as an artist only diminishes art. Put Celine in jail, put Pound in jail, punish Wilde and Bruce if you must, but do not censor their art.”
The comments came at a time when A24 was working on the awards campaign for “First Reformed.” Schrader obliged the distributor’s request to stay silent on social media, and picked up his first Oscar nomination, for original screenplay, although it ultimately lost to “Green Book.” Controlling a potential nominee’s social media is a frequent practice for awards teams during voting season, and A24 was likely making an attempt to keep good press surrounding the film.
In a February 26 Facebook post, Schrader made his return to the website, explaining that after he made the Spacey comments in November, “A24 requested that I stay off from FB until award season was over.”
Schrader also took a moment to share some life updates and his feelings toward awards season.
“Realized I didn’t really miss Facebook that much,” he said, and “got enmeshed in a process that made me care about awards I didn’t even respect.”
He went on to mention his fellow awards season travelers. “Ran into Spike Lee, Alfonso Cuaron, Pawel Pawlikowski, Bo Burnham and Barry Jenkins so often at so many ceremonies and events I never need to see them again,” he said.
Making light of the situation, A24 jokingly tweeted a screenshot of Schrader’s Facebook post with the since-deleted comment, “Awards season 2018/19 is officially over. Paul Schrader is out of ‘FB jail’ and no longer in the custody of A24.”
Some felt it was no joking matter, and writer-director Minhal Baig tweeted, “What a ‘joke’ that a director wants to work with someone who’s had sexual misconduct accusations leveled against them & you–as a studio–only kept him quiet to avoid losing awards momentum. This is a very revealing, sad and cynical tweet.”
A24 did not immediately respond to Variety’s request for comment.