During the controversy of #OscarsSoWhite earlier this year (sparked after the second year in a row with no ethnic minority nominees in the acting categories), one voice spoke out on a different kind of prejudice. For decades, Ricky Gervais insisted, the Academy had neglected comedy films for the top gongs out of sheer snobbery, and that had to come to an end.
The last comedy to win a best movie Oscar was Annie Hall in 1977. #OscarsSoSerious
It was a characteristically off-message response from the creator of The Office, Extras, Derek and Life’s Too Short – but does he really maintain that comedy has faced discrimination? Or was it all just a bit of fun?
“That was just a joke,” Gervais told RadioTimes.com. “I think I hashtagged it #ThisShouldWinAnOscar #TweetByKanye.
“I love the idea of people bitching that they haven’t won awards. I like the idea of that.”
But as with most of Gervais’ humour, he now admits that there was a certain kernel of truth within the absurdity. After all, what makes comedy automatically ineligible for Oscars?
“It is true, isn’t it?” he said. “For nearly 40 years, every film that’s won an Oscar has been a drama, or more serious. I can see why – they want it to sort of be important and worthy, and I think they think comedy is sort of easier to do. Which isn’t true. It isn’t true.
“And to do both, to do something comedic and quite serious and plotted, I mean that’s just ridiculous. That was hard.”
Not that he takes awards too seriously, of course.
“If you worry about those sort of things you will go mad,” he said. “I spoofed it in Extras, the people doing films that are ‘worthy’ to win an Oscar. But this is fun. At the end of the day it’s entertainment, that’s why we do films. They don’t, they rarely change the world.
“Documentaries do, for some people. But a movie rarely changes the world immediately. I think if you’re doing it for that, I think you should probably go into politics, or do some direct action.”
With that said, Gervais still admits that latest project Special Correspondents (a film about journalists faking news stories now available on Netflix) was hard work, especially compared to his other big film production this year.
“[David Brent return] Life on the Road, I know that inside out,” he told us (see video above).
“Special Correspondents was much, much harder. On every level. More planning, more plot, more storyline. It was away from home, there were superstars in it.
“This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Just because the ambition was greater. It felt like I went up into the big boys’ school. I felt like I’d just been doing my own thing for 10, 15 years, playing. This suddenly felt like a real job, with pressure.
He concluded: “Special Correspondents was making a real Hollywood movie, where Life on the Road is familiar – it’s safer. I know it inside out.”
“This is gonna sound odd as well, but I really tried my best with this one. That should be on the poster. It’s a real movie!”
We’ll have to wait and see which production ends up enchanting audiences more, but we know one thing – if there are any awards going, Ricky Gervais has no time for that nonsense.
Well, probably not.
Special Correspondents is available to stream on Netflix now