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.’