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Pod: Will Smith and the End of Movie Stars

Pod: Will Smith and the End of Movie Stars

Publicist: 'This is going to change things for him in a way he won't like'
THE SLAP: Rock and Smith onstage during the 94th Academy Awards. (Robyn Beck / AFP)

Today’s Ankler Hot Seat podcast welcomes guest Howard Bragman, a crisis publicist who has handled the likes of Sharon Osbourne and Brett Ratner, joining hosts Janice Min, Richard Rushfield and Tatiana Siegel. On today’s episode, Bragman discusses Slapgate and the absurdity of Smith’s rush to the stage.

“One of the great skill sets of being a star in Hollywood is having a thick skin. And $20 million a movie should buy you a lot of armor to have a very thick skin,” said Bragman.

The veteran publicist also weighed in on why Rock’s joke should have been addressed by Jada Pinkett Smith, the intended target and not her husband. “Jada has her own talk show,” Bragman continued. “She's a very powerful, intelligent, respected woman. Couldn't she have stood up for herself or given him the finger, something? She gave him a bit of a sneer. Could she have not given him the finger and made her point.”

The hosts also discuss what the victory of Apple TV+’s CODA over Power of the Dog and Don’t Look Up (with Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) says about stardom in Hollywood today.

“Last night also seemed like the death of the movie star,” said Min. “You had Netflix pay…for Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence for Don't Look Up and Power of the Dog certainly had like a top flight cast with Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Jane Campion as the director. And here comes this cast with CODA…not what people equate with A-list Hollywood, right?” Siegel concurred: “Last night seemed to be the death of the movie star, the movie business and maybe comedy as we know it in the future.”

Siegel also discussed the Twitter threads speculating about Will Smith and Scientology, citing a thread about “a Scientology course that involves slapping physically humiliating fellow Scientologists in a group setting as a means of exerting superiority.”

Speaking of which, Bragman was asked if The Slap is Smith’s career equivalent of Tom Cruise’s couch-jumping, a moment that will define a career before and after. Said Bragman: “It kind of is. But Tom got his shit back together because Tom got his shit back together. We'll see where it will takes this. Now, this could be a wake up call.”

The hosts also tackle the controversy around Jay-Z’s Oscar afterparty, held at Los Angeles’s iconic Chateau Marmont, which carried on as planned despite guests having to cross a picket line of aggrieved former employees, some who say they were subjected to sexual harassment, including from owner Andre Balazs (which he has denied) and racial discrimination.

Kurt Pedersen, who is co-president of the Chateau Marmont union, joined the Hot Seat to give his take from the picket line: “There was a lot of embarrassment,” Pedersen said of the celebrities who crossed the line including Kim Kardashian, Zoe Kravitz, Jon Hamm and best supporting actor winner Troy Kotsur. “First we should applaud those who didn't go. I mean, most of the folks who received Oscars were not at that party last night.”

HAPPIER TIMES: Rock once played Jasmine to Will Smith’s 'Will' on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (Jan Sonnenmair/NBCU Photo Bank)

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