Every time celebrities such as Clint Eastwood, Julia Roberts and James Hong are publicly endorsed for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Ana Martinez receives a slew of emails asking “why don’t they already have a star?” The Walk of Fame producer repeats her response.
“You cannot just buy a star. People don’t understand that there’s a process. They feel like if they have money, it can be bought, and that’s not the way it works,” Martinez tells Variety.
The yearlong selection process, organized by Martinez, kicks off in April, when applications go live on the Walk of Fame website. By June, the producers receive roughly 200 to 300 nominations, among them, a handful that do not meet the minimum requirements — five or more years of work experience in the entertainment industry, awards and nominations and engagement in philanthropy.
Martinez reviews every application, sorts them by categories — motion pictures, television, recording, radio and live performance — and summarizes each contender’s achievements. Then, the Walk of Fame committee, five former Walk-of-Famers selected by the producer, carefully reviews the submissions and her notes to decide the honorees.
The committee awards a different number of people each year, though usually around 24. The Class of 2021 honorees, chosen this summer, will comprise 35 individuals, due to a competitive pool of 200 applicants.
But even if a candidate is selected, they must be in agreement with their nomination. Martinez explains the Springsteen policy, named after Bruce Springsteen who was nominated by his fans, chosen by the committee but turned down his star. “Clint Eastwood also got nominated, and he didn’t want it,” she says. “So now, the celebrities have to sign off a form saying that they want a star, and ‘yes, I’ll be there for the ceremony if I get it.'”
Once the honoree signs a confirmation form, the $50,000 sponsorship fee is donated to the Hollywood Historic Trust, a nonprofit organization that oversees the maintenance of the street and handles repairs that cannot be afforded by the city.
The money also goes toward the creation and installment of the star, as well as the ceremony. Martinez explains the cost of the free of charge celebration with fans covers applying for city permits, creating barricades and hiring security. The honorees also receive a plaque to bring home.
If an applicant isn’t selected the first time around, the nomination can be rolled over to the next cycle. All applications are good for up to two years.
Due to coronavirus outbreaks, Class of 2020 honoree Anthony Anderson had an in-person ceremony with just the Walk of Fame staff and his family. All 25 people who attended the event in August were tested for COVID-19 two days prior, and everyone was required to wear masks.
Martinez hopes fans will understand the care that goes into the selection process: “I wish I could just give everyone a star, but it doesn’t work like that. People think we’re ignoring these people [who are publicly nominated,] but it’s just difficult. There’s just too much competition.”
Variety is a media partner with the Hollywood Walk of Fame.