Will the Oscars Snub Actor Viggo Mortensen Over His Use of the Word “Nigger” During Movie Panel Session?

CREDIT: DEADLINE/SHUTTERSTOCK

The controversy over Viggo Mortensen’s use of the N-word during a recent Q&A for his movie “Green Book” appears to be over, but can he and the film recover enough to emerge as a genuine awards contender?

In the immediate days following the incident, glowing profiles in the likes of USA Today (“Finally, an Oscar for Viggo?” the headline asked) and think pieces over the race-themed film glossed over or entirely omitted mention of the incident. The actor, to his credit, was quick to apologize for using the word, which he uttered during a conversation with “Green Book” costar Mahershala Ali and Film Independent programmer and moderator Elvis Mitchell a little over a week ago.

“I was attempting to make the point that the extreme, dehumanizing ugliness that this word conjures, the hateful attitude behind it, has not disappeared just because white people generally no longer use it as a racist insult,” he wrote in a statement released after shocked tweets from the screening surfaced online.

Ali sent his own statement in the hours following Mortensen’s apology, acknowledging how inappropriate the word was but accepting his co-star’s contrition nonetheless.

Mortensen has continued to appear on the awards season campaign trail and sit for interviews, showing up at the film’s New York premiere and hitting the Governor’s Ball. On Sunday, Mortensen received a standing ovation at “Green Book”‘s official Academy screening. On Monday, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced he would receive their American Riviera Award, and the annual Palm Springs Festival is giving the film its annual Vanguard Award. In turn, the industry — and the wider public — appear to have accepted his contrition.

“I think there’s a short memory span,” said another top Hollywood awards consultant, “otherwise this whole industry would collapse. What could hurt his chances for an Oscar more were the soft box office numbers this weekend.”

Indeed, a limited release fetched a soft $313,000 for the film on 25 screens. Word of mouth was expected to boost that number, especially following the film’s surprise audience choice award win at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The film is about to expand significantly into 1,000 theaters for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, when it will have plenty of competition from the latest “Fantastic Beasts” entry, “Creed II,” “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and “The Grinch.” It’s on track to generate a middling $8 million over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend.

If the industry has largely forgiven Mortensen for his remarks, that’s somewhat surprising. Using racially charged language and particularly that slur has become a definitive line that, once crossed, is nearly impossible to come back from. Two top executives, Jonathan Friedland from Netflix and Amy Powell of Paramount Pictures, have been fired in the past five months for reportedly using the slur in the same manner as Mortensen — demonstratively, while discussing hate speech in the presence of people of color.

Click here to continue reading.

SOURCE: Variety – Matt Donnelly