Steve Flaherty, Intern
Ben Affleck can thank public relations for winning the Academy Awards’ biggest prize on Sunday night.
Although Affleck’s film, “Argo,” took home the Oscar for best picture, the film’s journey began with bad news. Affleck did not receive a nomination for best director when the nominations were announced on Jan. 10. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was highly criticized for that decision by Hollywood media.
The show’s host, Seth McFarlane, joined in on the criticism during the broadcast when, referring to “Argo,” he joked, “The story was so secret that the film’s director was unknown to the Academy.”
“Argo”’s Oscar victory proves that even failures can become positive PR when handled properly.
Katey Rich, executive editor of film site Cinameblend.com , told USA Today, “When Ben Affleck’s name was left out of the best-director [nomination] Oscar morning, it brought more attention to “Argo” than I think it ever had up to that point.”
Meanwhile, one of “Argo”’s competitors in the Best Picture category felt the ill effects of negative PR in the months leading up to the Academy Awards. Zero Dark Thirty was an early favorite to win Best Picture, but its buzz faded when Washington politicians from both parties condemned its positive depiction of torturing prisoners to help find Osama bin Laden.
“Argo” on the other hand continued to build momentum before the Oscar nominations, and the best director snub aided in further fueling that fire. The film swept through the award season by winning The Critics Choice best picture award and the Golden Globe for best drama.
The buzz surrounding Affleck’s “Argo” allowed it to become just the fourth film to ever capture the Oscar for best picture despite not receiving a best director nomination. The last film to accomplish that feat was “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1990.
“It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is that you gotta get up,” said Affleck during his acceptance speech.
That battle was fought behind the scenes by a dedicated PR staff that publicized the movie for “nearly as long as the Iran hostage crisis itself,” as Warner Bros. Executive Vice President of domestic publicity, Juli Goodwin, compared it to.
Just days before millions watched Affleck and his “Argo” team proudly accept their golden trophies on Hollywood’s biggest night, Goodwin accepted the Maxwell Weinberg Publicist Showman of the Year Award on behalf of Argo’s publicity team at the 50th Annual Publicist Awards. So while Ben Affleck will deservedly get all of the attention, he can thank public relations for fighting the battle behind the scenes that won him his Academy Award.