The early 2003 Robert Wise/Martin Scorsese/Gangs of New York Oscar campaign scandal wasn’t the first time that Miramax and its big boss, Harvey Weinstein, were accused of aggressive Oscar campaigning.
Following the unexpected 1999 Best Picture win of Miramax’s John Madden-directed romantic comedy Shakespeare in Love over DreamWorks’ Steven Spielberg-directed World War II drama Saving Private Ryan, New York Daily News movie critic Jack Mathews wrote an open letter to Weinstein that began with the following:
“Now that the dust has settled over the Oscar that Steven Spielberg thinks you stole from him, this would seem a good time to take stock of what your extravagant Oscar campaigns of recent months and years have actually done for you, against you and to the fragile balance of blood sport in Hollywood.”
After stating his belief that although “Oscar nominations can be won through campaigns … I don’t think you can buy the Oscar itself,” Mathews added: “Your campaigns are obnoxious, and they do create the appearance of influence-buying. They’re tainting the Oscar process, making Miramax a Cold War villain, and demeaning the films themselves.”
Now, if Academy Award nominations “can be won through campaigns,” why can’t you buy the Oscar itself? Although it’s true that Gangs of New York failed to win a single Oscar out of its ten nominations, that same year Rob Marshall‘sChicago — another Miramax release — was crowned as the Best Picture of the year, in addition to winning five other Oscars.
Following an acrimonious divorce from parent company Walt Disney Studios — at least in part because of Michael Moore‘s 2004 anti-George W. Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 — Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob founded The Weinstein Company.
TWC’s Stephen Frears-directed Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005) earnedJudi Dench a somewhat surprising Best Actress nomination, while mediocre reviews notwithstanding, Stephen Daldry‘s The Reader (2008) managed to be shortlisted as one of the top five films of the year besides eventually earning Kate Winslet the Best Actress Oscar.
In 2009, Rob Marshall’s musical Nine was a tough sell, especially because of dismal business and reviews. However, Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds, partly produced by TWC, received multiple Oscar nods including Best Picture.
Last year, TWC finally had its first Best Picture Oscar winner: Tom Hooper‘s British-made The King’s Speech. This year’s odds-on Best Picture favorite, Michel Hazanavicius‘ French-made The Artist, is another TWC North American release.