EXCLUSIVE: After extreme pressure from other members over his memoir Signs And Wonders, four-term Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Philip Berk has taken a six month leave of absence from the organization that is behind the Golden Globes. This happened last Friday, a compromise resolution to a problem that has been in the air since Berk published a book that covered his early days and especially the back and forth between HFPA members and celebrities involved in the Globes. Insiders said that the feeling among HFPA members was that Berk blindsided them with his book, took shots at them and a lot of Hollywood celebrities, and also took way too much credit for the success of the Globes. Perfectly positioned to be a tool during Oscar campaigns, the Globes has grown in prominence and TV ratings, even as some questioned whether the voting body has a right to wield such clout.
The leave of absence means that Berk loses his HFPA credentials for that long, though he can certainly go see movies on his own. The move was a compromise reached with current HFPA president Theo Kingma, who resisted calls for Berk to be given greater punishment. In addition to the leave of absence, Berk has been asked by Kingma to have the book de-listed from Amazon, which is selling it. The HFPA will get into this further, engaging with the publisher tomorrow.
“He wasn’t suspended, there was no vote by the members, because this is a journalist organization that respects the First Amendment,” said an insider. “Unfortunately, free speech covers stupid speech too.” A group of members are unsatisfied with the leave of absence punishment, and they will bring their case for further sanctions on Berk after the six months end.
Berk is probably the best known president of the HFPA, and he has Ricky Gervais to thank for that, ever since, during his first Globes hosting stint, Gervais said that he’d just pulled Berk off the toilet and plopped in his teeth so he could appear in the next segment. Not surprisingly, there seemed to be a frosty relationship between them since.
Below is a reel of Ricky Gervais’s Golden Globes performance (I’d forgotten how bracing he was to the Hollywood elite), and his riff about Berk comes at six minutes in.