Tales from Tinseltown - Man on the Moon’ stunt sends Universal and Carrey into orbit

A recent PR debacle has Hollywood rethinking the old tenet that ’any publicity is good publicity.’

A recent PR debacle has Hollywood rethinking the old tenet that ’any publicity is good publicity.’

A recent PR debacle has Hollywood rethinking the old tenet that

’any publicity is good publicity.’

Last week, Universal’s PR executives found themselves apologizing for -

and denying their involvement in - an apparent publicity stunt gone awry

during a media junket for Man on the Moon, an upcoming Andy Kaufman

biopic starring Jim Carrey.

According to those who attended the Dec. 4 junket, trouble began when

’Tony Clifton’ (the obnoxious lounge singer alter ego that Kaufman and

writing partner Bob Zmuda often assumed) stormed into the ballroom of

the Four Seasons Hotel with a buxom blonde, handing out fliers that read

’Tony on the Moon.’ Up on the podium, Carrey initially didn’t respond -

’a sure sign that he was in on it,’ one journalist reported - but soon

reprimanded Clifton for the interruption.

Clifton (presumably Zmuda) ignored Carrey and spray-painted ’Tony on the

Moon’ on doors behind the actor, which incited Carrey to attack him.

During the tussle, Carrey upended a table with microphones on it before

storming out of the room.

In the aftermath, several tape-recorders were left broken, further

irritating the already skeptical Hollywood press corps. Carrey returned

20 minutes later and gave a short press conference, with no admission of

his role in the brawl. Producers Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg, as

well as Zmuda (now dressed as himself), also denied any knowledge of the


Universal’s PR staff spent the following days trying to convince

attendees that it had no role in the fiasco. The studio went as far as

to issue a mea culpa: ’We went to too much effort and expense to risk

alienating the press who had such a great response to the film. We

apologize for the episode, and to the extent that we can control these

kinds of insulting situations in the future, we will.’

Though the stunt kept with Kaufman’s tradition of anarchic appearances,

Universal should be afforded the benefit of doubt. After all, the studio

has a tough sell with the dollars 60 million film about a comic that

only a select few ’got’ during his life. Universal’s marketing battle

would clearly not be helped by pissing off those in a position to

influence the box office.

Universal also knows that in order for Man to succeed, it will need a

boost from award nominations. And, as one PR exec noted, ’The Academy

doesn’t appreciate stunts like this. Here we are trying to position this

as Oscar-worthy and as a movie that should be seen by a wider audience

than just Andy Kaufman fans, and someone tries to pull a cute one with

the very people who could help us get that message across.’

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