In the midst of all the hype around the Academy Awards last week, I heard one bit of information that caught my attention. One film critic pointed out two films notably passed over: "Troy," starring Brad Pitt, and Oliver Stone's similar epic, "Alexander." Between the two of them, they garnished just one nomination ("Troy" lost to "The Aviator" for costume design).
But here's the interesting part: the combined production and North American promotion cost was $440 million dollars. Factor in worldwide promotion and distribution and those two forgettable films burned through almost half a billion dollars!
That started me thinking. What could I do with some of Hollywood's wasted money?
Here's a start.
A single 30-second commercial airing during the television broadcast of the awards cost $1.5 million. Trade that 30 seconds for three massive drilling rigs that can bore 1000 feet into the earth to find fresh water and we could drill water wells all over Africa, India and areas hit by the tsunami in order to give them the clean drinking water that they so sorely lack. Waterborne illnesses kill millions each year. If Pepsi would swap half a minute of brand recognition for three drilling rigs, they would provide hundreds of wells and a lifetime of refreshing drinks for millions of people.
Australia's Herald Sun revealed that Best Actress winner Hillary Swank was paid over $120,000 to wear Chopard jewelry. That's right -- she didn't pay for the glitzy accessories, she was paid to wear them! Perhaps my wife, Betty, could wear a Chopard necklace on television if the company would help feed 12,000 African children, which is what $120,000 does. And while the jewels may only be flashed for six seconds on the Academy Award broadcast, the food would last 12,000 starving kids for six whole months! (We would not accept such paid endorsements on Life Today. I'm simply making a point.)
USA Today reported that the official Oscar "swag" bag, an assortment of gifts given to "unpaid" celebrities participating in the award ceremonies, held a value of over $100,000. For the price of Chris Rock's bag, we could build an entire neighborhood of new homes in Central America and give 40 wretchedly poor families quality shelter. Sure, three nights at St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa would be nice, but how about giving three children and their parents a dry place to survive the torrential downpours of the rainforest?
I realize that massive amounts of wasted money are, in a way, a part of the American success story. I'm not attacking Hollywood for acting like, well...Hollywood.
(The remainder of the column is in the process of being restored)