AP Images / NBCThe usual array of awards speculation and red-carpet hype has preceded Sunday's airing for the 69th annual Golden Globes. But somewhat unusually, the majority of this year's pre-Globes discussion centers not on the award nominees, but on the man who's running the show: devilish, controversial host Ricky Gervais.
This will be Gervais's third consecutive year hosting the Golden Globes, though last year's ceremony is the one that everyone remembers. Gervais drew such widespread coverage in 2011 because he violated the biggest unspoken rule of being an awards show host: He mocked the people he was ostensibly there to celebrate. Incisive, acerbic comedians like David Letterman and Jon Stewart have found themselves neutered by conventional awards show format, which call on hosts to deliver scripted monologues that feature good-natured teasing at the very worst. But Gervais didn't just tease; he used his platform like an acid-tipped sledgehammer, aimed squarely at Hollywood's biggest stars. Last year's targets included Bruce Willis ("Ashton Kutcher's dad"), Robert Downey Jr. ("Many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail"), and the cast of Sex and The City 2 ("I was sure the award for best special effects would go to the team that airbrushed that poster").
Though the Golden Globe-running Hollywood Foreign Press Association issued a statement after last year's ceremony saying that Gervais "occasionally went too far"—he did, after all, include HFPA president Philip Berk among his targets—there was never really a doubt that he'd be invited to return. The Golden Globes are the oddball of the award season: a kind of Emmy-Oscar mash-up, with winners selected by a shadowy cabal of voters whose objectivity has regularly been called into question. Gervais's wicked insults were a shot in the arm for the colorless Golden Globes, a dose of unpredictability at a ceremony that had grown far too staid and safe. Gervais's latest round of scathing remarks is so hotly anticipated that gambling website PaddyPower.com is offering its users the chance to bet on what his first celebrity insult will be.
But despite (or perhaps because of) all the press speculation, Gervais is playing his cards close to his chest. Earlier this week, he tweeted his "only stipulation" before he agreed to host again: "No one knows what I'm going to say until I say it." We may not know, but we can do our best to predict. In 2011, which celebrities have provided enough ammunition for Gervais' piercing comedy?
Katy Perry and Russell Brand
The Katy Perry/Russell Brand split is PaddyPower.com's odds-on favorite for Gervais' first joke of the evening, with a winning bet paying off at 5:1. The couple's impending divorce has already provided plenty of tabloid fodder, and Perry's recent single " The One That Got Away" is a joke that writes itself. As for Brand, at an event packed primarily with American celebrities, the British Gervais may not be able to resist the urge to rib one of his countrymen—particularly one with so many well-documented skeletons in the closet.
Bruce Willis drew the majority of Gervais's heat away from Kutcher at last year's ceremony, but the former That 70's Show star has at least two high-profile targets on his back this year: his split with Demi Moore, and his replacement of Charlie Sheen on CBS' Two and a Half Men. With Willis out of the spotlight this year and Sheen jokes passé, Kutcher will likely be squirming every time Gervais takes the microphone.
Johnny DeppAlongside costar Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp drew some of Gervais's funniest stings at last year's Golden Globes for surprise nominee The Tourist ("I'd like to crush this ridiculous rumor that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so that the Foreign Press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That was not the only reason. They also accepted bribes."). Given that Depp's highest-profile role this year was his creative, daring decision to star in yet another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Gervais will probably go after him with both barrels.
Baldwin—a former awards-show host himself, and no stranger to controversy—made headlines again this year when he was kicked off an American Airlines flight for refusing to turn his cell phone off during what must have been a very heated game of "Words With Friends." Though the controversy died down after Baldwin temporarily shuttered his Twitter account, it would be unlike Gervais to miss this chance to rile the 30 Rock star's feathers.
Hefner was one of the celebrities who responding publicly to Gervais' barbs, tweeting that he was "used to cheap shots." But Gervais's remarks about the Playboy mogul's upcoming nuptials proved prescient when fiancée Crystal Harris called off the wedding just a few months later, prompting the hasty placement of a " runaway bride" sticker on Playboy's July cover. History is written by the winners, and Gervais may not be able to resist getting one last "cheap shot" in.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé
It doesn't seem likely that Jay-Z and Beyoncé would show up to the ceremony less than a week after giving birth to their first baby, but that probably won't matter for Gervais. After all, the pop power couple just named their newborn daughter Blue Ivy. Gervais is probably too sharp for another round of "what's with celebrity baby names?" jokes—most comedians got that out of their system when Gwyneth Paltrow had daughter Apple in 2004. But Blue Ivy's coos apparently count as a "guest appearance" on Jay-Z's new song "Glory," which technically makes the newborn the youngest person ever to appear on a Billboard chart. There's got to be a good joke there.
Ryan Reynolds saw his rising star take a tumble this year with a pair of flops in the form of R-rated comedy The Change-Up and the critically drubbed superhero blockbuster Green Lantern. And if two bad, underperforming movies don't offer edgy-enough material, Gervais could really go for the jugular and reference ex-wife Scarlett Johannsson's nude, hacked cell phone pictures, which were reportedly taken for Reynolds.
Gosling had a big year in 2011, with well-reviewed turns in the annoyingly punctuated Crazy, Stupid, Love, thriller Drive, and star-studded political drama The Ides of March. But Gervais likes to aim big, and Gosling makes for an appealingly big target. For a starting point, Gervais doesn't need to go any further than a reference to People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive," which was awarded to Bradley Cooper despite a fervent online fan campaign for Gosling.
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