I had an exclusive interview with veteran controversial Hollywood publicist Chris Harris, who has been a part of the Hollywood scene for more than 35 years, and who has been mentioned in over 25 books on every subject from the death of Marilyn Monroe to the Zodiac Killer. (It was Chris Harris who introduced the world press in 1996 to the word ‘road rage.’) I sat down with Chris last week to ask him about the eight Oscars® that went to Slumdog Millionaire.
Q: Why do you think the Academy gave “Slumdog Millionaire” eight Oscars?
A: I think the Academy has lost their perspective on what is really the true Hollywood art of acting, directing and producing.
Q: Explain what you mean by that.
A: When you look back over the many years when some of our finest American films with great directors and actors were passed over, it raises serious questions about the Academy membership. Since the screening of Squaw Man, the first feature-length film in 1912, the American filmmaker and performer has provided an art form unequaled in the history of film and performance.
Q: Are you forgetting the British?
A: Certainty not. I am speaking strictly of the American filmmakers and performers. What happened this year in awarding Slumdog Millionaire eight Oscars was an embarrassment to the American filmmaker and performer. One Oscar, if that, would have been sufficient for Slumdog Millionaire, but eight? I think the membership must have let their emotions overtake what is really art. I walked out on Slumdog Millionaire. It was an excellent documentary about what we know, and have known, about India since I was a child. And, it still remains an unsolved problem and that is squalor and famine rampant right in the heart of Mumbai.
Q: What do you think of Bollywood?
A: It is filmmaking that appeals to the Indian, and that is good. To adopt the word Bollywood is not in any sense of the word original. I don’t think one can ever compare Hollywood to Bollywood.
Q: Have you ever seen a Bollywood film?
A: Yes, but I cannot remember the title. The plot was about a young Indian male not wanting to marry the chosen bride by the family.
Q: What separates Hollywood from Bollywood?
A: Hollywood is always seeking realism. Bollywood cannot portray the true form of realism on film; their culture prevents that.
Q: So, as I understand it, you are upset over the eight Oscars given to Slumdog Millionaire, not the fact that Slumdog Millionaire was entered as a contender for the Oscars.
A: Yes, that sums up how I feel. It was almost like “goodbye Hollywood, hello Bollywood” when they gave the Best Music (Song) and Best Music (Score) to Slumdog Millionaire. And it was an insult when they gave the award for Best Picture to Slumdog Millionaire with a category including films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader and Milk. When you look at Ron Howard, Gus Van Sant and Stephen Daldry losing to Slumdog Millionaire, it is just unbelievable. We have some of the finest sound mixers in Hollywood and Slumdog Millionaire also won that. I would have been outraged if the Academy had given the Best Actor, Best Actress and best supporting roles to Slumdog Millionaire. The Oscars for those titles went to Hollywood.
Q: You have stated throughout the interview it was your opinion. Do you have any advice for the Academy Awards 2010?
A: Yes, I do. Stop taking American filmmaking, and those that play a vital role in the filmmaking, for granted.