If the acceptance speeches at Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony seemed scripted, it’s because, it seems, they are. According to a report from New York Magazine, Hollywood actors and actresses are now hiring out political speechwriters to pen their thirty-second missives so that they don’t miss an opportunity to sneak in some political or cultural commentary.
Vulture Magazine reports that celebrities, including, supposedly, now-Oscar winner Brad Pitt — who took home a statuette Sunday night for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” — are farming out their speechwriting to firms like Fenway Strategies, run by former speechwriters for President Barack Obama, hoping that ghostwriters can improve their pithiness and amp up their wit.
“Fenway Strategies is a speechwriting and communications firm founded by former Obama administration officials Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor. Although the firm’s most obvious connection is to the political arena, helping speakers prep TED talks or United Nations addresses, Fenway has branched out into Hollywood,” according to Vulture. “And over the last few years the firm has helped ghostwrite awards acceptance speeches for a number of A-list clients; you definitely know them but their identities are protected by non-disclosure agreements.”
“The practice is so widespread among movie, music, and TV stars nowadays,” Vulture says, that the head of Fenway strategies “finds it more astonishing to discover a nominee has eschewed professional speechwriting help than when one seeks it out.”
Sunday night, Pitt opened his speech with a well-constructed, pointed jab at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and members of the Senate Republican caucus who voted against allowing additional witnesses to testify at President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings.
“They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the senate gave John Bolton this week,” Pitt said. “I’m thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it. In the end the adults do the right thing.”
In fact, it was Pitt who set off Vulture’s radar. After hearing Pitt’s acceptance speech at the Screen Actor’s Guild Award — a speech the Vulture author seems to believe was uncharacteristically eloquent for the longtime A-lister — the outlet went searching for an answer as to how Pitt had improved his delivery. No communications firm would admit to ghostwriting for the actor, “[b]ut at least one outside speechwriting agency reached by Vulture (that asked to remain anonymous because of a confidentiality agreement) confirms that Pitt’s representatives contacted the organization to consult about engaging their services.”
It’s no surprise that Obama alumni are moving into the entertainment space. Their boss, Barack Obama, was also a winner at Sunday night’s Oscars, sharing in the success of Best Documentary winner, “American Factory,” per Variety — the film perhaps now best known for its directors, who quoted the Communist Manifesto in their own acceptance speech, urging “workers of the world” to unite.
The film, which followed the plight of Chinese auto workers shipped in to make cars in a Dayton, Ohio, plant, was produced by Higher Ground, the Obama’s production company, in partnership with Netflix. The Obamas have a multi-year, multi-production deal with the streaming network.