Tom Cruise hands back Golden Globes: why are so many stars boycotting the awards?

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which is behind the annual affair, is facing a backlash for its lack of diversity

epa06577253 (FILE) - US actor Tom Cruise arrives at the Australian premiere of 'The Mummy' in Sydney, Australia, 22 May 2017 (reissued 03 March 2018). According to media reports, Tom Cruise was honored 'Worst Actor' for his 2017 performance in 'The Mummy' at the Golden Rasberry awards. The 38th Golden Raspberry Awards ceremony takes place 03 March 2018.  EPA-EFE/DAN HIMBRECHTS  AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
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Next year's awards season looks set to have a little less sparkle than usual.

The annual Golden Globes, which fete the best in film and TV across the past year, are at the centre of an ever-growing row.

A number of stars have announced they will boycott the awards, Tom Cruise has reportedly vowed to hand back his trophies, NBC has confirmed it will not broadcast the ceremony in 2022, and studios including Netflix and Warner Bros have also threatened to cut ties with the event.

Why are the Golden Globes facing a backlash?

The controversy all boils down to one key issue: diversity.

In a February exposé by the Los Angeles Times, it was revealed that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – the organisers behind the awards – had no black journalists among its 87 members.

The article also raised ethical questions over close relationships between the HFPA and film studios that may influence the choice of Golden Globe nominees and winners.

What has the HFPA done in response?

In the wake of growing criticism, the organisation vowed in March to take "immediate action" to address a lack of diversity.

The HFPA promised to hire an independent expert in diversity, equity and inclusion, focus on adding black and other under-represented professionals to the organisation, and hire an independent law firm that would ensure a process is in place for reporting and investigating violations of ethical standards or codes of conduct.

The group also vowed to increase its support of internship, mentorship and scholarship programmes for black and under-represented students.

Has the HFPA made those changes?

This month, the organisation unveiled wider reform that not only included its previous promises, but proposed adding at least 20 new members in 2021 and boosting its ranks by 50 per cent over the next 18 months.

The changes, however, would need to be approved by current members and will be discussed at the group's next meeting, a statement from the HFPA confirmed.

The organisation also urged its members to not accept freebies from film and TV studios, after the Los Angeles Times said journalists had been bribed with "gifts, dinners and star-studded parties".

"We want to be clear – these outlined changes are just the first steps in the long journey ahead," the HFPA said. "We also know that in this existential moment for our association, change is difficult and sometimes scary."

Who is speaking out against the Golden Globes?

JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE! - "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EDT and features a diverse lineup of guests that include celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Tuesday, April 24 included Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Danai Gurira and Dave Bautista ("Avengers: Infinity War"), and musical guest Bleachers. (Randy Holmes via Getty Images)
Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson have spoken out against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Getty Images

In recent weeks, a number of stars have criticised the HFPA, urging the organisation to make immediate, widespread changes.

Scarlett Johansson last week revealed she refused to participate in HFPA conferences for several years, after being subjected to "sexist questions and remarks" from members "that bordered on sexual harassment".

"The HFPA is an organisation that was legitimised by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition and the industry followed suit," she told Entertainment Weekly.

"Unless there is necessary fundamental reform within the organisation, I believe it is time that we take a step back from the HFPA and focus on the importance and strength of unity within our unions and the industry as a whole."

Her Avengers co-star Mark Ruffalo also said in a social media post that, as a Golden Globe winner, he "could not feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award".

"Now is the time to step up and right the wrongs of the past," the actor added.

Actress and director Regina King and director Ava DuVernay also shared social media posts in February, after the Los Angeles Times article was published, suggesting the HFPA's lack of diversity was a well-known issue in the industry.

Is Tom Cruise the latest star to boycott the awards?

The Mission Impossible actor has, according to several reports, returned his three Golden Globes to the organisation in protest.

Cruise has two Best Actor gongs to his name for his performances in Jerry Maguire and Born on the Fourth of July, as well as a Best Supporting Actor award for Magnolia.

The actor has not made a public statement on the matter, though sources told CNN and Deadline he had sent back the trophies.

Who else is boycotting the Golden Globes?

NBC said on Monday that it will not broadcast the Golden Globes in 2022.

The network said it believes the HFPA is committed to reform, but acknowledged "change of this magnitude takes time and work".

"We feel strongly that the [association] needs time to do it right,” the network said. “Assuming the organisation executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

Netflix and Amazon also announced this month they would be stepping back from working with the HFPA until significant reforms were made.

"We don't believe these proposed new policies – particularly around the size and speed of membership growth – will tackle the HFPA's systemic diversity and inclusion challenges, or the lack of clear standards for how your members should operate," Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos wrote in a letter to the HFPA's leadership committee.

“So we’re stopping any activities with your organisation until more meaningful changes are made. We know that you have many well-intentioned members who want real change – and that all of us have more work to do to create an equitable and inclusive industry."

Did the controversy affect this year's Golden Globes?

With the Los Angeles Times' article published shortly before the February ceremony, the 2021 Golden Globes were somewhat overshadowed by the furore.

Many critics savaged the HFPA for failing to recognise some high-profile films and TV shows by and about people of colour, including Da 5 Bloods and I May Destroy You.

The 78th Golden Globes ended up attracting 6.9 million viewers, a 63 per cent drop from the 2020 show, watched by 18.4 million, according to a report by the Associated Press.