Ricky Gervais Tried to Shut Down Political Commentary at the Globes, But These Celebs Spoke Out

A round of applause for Michelle Williams's empowering speech on women's reproductive rights

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

It was an exciting night in Hollywood on Sunday evening, with the 77th annual Golden Globes kicking off awards season, but it was clear that current events, such as the devastating bushfires in Australia and the US drone strike ordered by President Trump that killed Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, were still top of mind for many of the celebrities in attendance.

Despite host Ricky Gervais discouraging the night’s winners from using their acceptance speeches as a political platform in his opening monologue (“You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything, you know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God, and f*ck off. OK?” he so lovingly said), a handful of the night’s winners decided to speak out anyway—and for good reason.

Below, the winners and presenters who used the Golden Globes stage to get political.

Russell Crowe

Australian actor Russell Crowe won best actor in a limited series or motion picture made for TV for his performance as Roger Ailes in The Loudest Voice, but he was not in attendance at the awards show because he was home with his family preparing for the latest bushfires.

Jennifer Aniston, who was presenting the award, read out Crowe’s statement on his behalf, which said: “Make no mistake: The tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate-change based. We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is. That way we all have a future.”

Patricia Arquette

While accepting the award for best supporting actress in a limited series or TV movie for her portrayal of Dee Dee Blanchard in The Act, Patricia Arquette urged everyone to vote in the 2020 US election.

“I’m so grateful to be here and celebrate this, but also I know tonight, January 5, 2020, we’re not going to look back on this night in the history books,” she said. “We will see a country on the brink of war, the United States of America. A president tweeting out a threat of 52 bombs, including cultural sites. Young people risking their lives travelling across the world. People not knowing if bombs are going to drop on their kids’ heads. And the continent of Australia on fire.”

She continued, “So while I love my kids so much, I beg of us all to give them a better world. For our kids and their kids, we have to vote in 2020, and we have to beg and plead for everyone we know to vote in 2020.”

Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams gave one of the most powerful speeches of the night while accepting the award for best actress in a limited series for her portrayal of the late Gwen Verdon in Fosse/Verdon. The recently engaged and pregnant actor used her time onstage to speak out about women’s reproductive rights. She began the speech by describing a Golden Globe as a recognition of the choices one makes not only as an actor but also as a person. She told the audience, “I’m grateful for the acknowledgment of the choices I’ve made, and I’m also grateful to have lived at a moment in our society where choice exists because as women and as girls things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice.

“I’ve tried my very best to live a life of my own making and not just a series of events that happened to me but one that I can stand back and look at and recognize my handwriting all over, sometimes messy and scrawling, sometimes careful and precise, but one that I carved with my own hand. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose. To choose when to have my children and with whom. When I felt supported and able to balance our lives knowing as all mothers know that the scales must and will tip towards our children.”

While acknowledging that her choices may look different from other women’s, she encouraged the audience to “thank God, or whomever you pray to, that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours.”

She concluded by encouraging women to exercise their right to vote, saying, “Women, 18 to 118, when it is time to vote, please do so in your own self-interest. It’s what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them. Don’t forget: We are the largest voting body in this country. Let’s make it look more like us.”

While her empowered speech received praise and support both at the show and on social media from Williams’s fellow actors, other Twitter users criticized her for seemingly addressing her speech to white women—the majority of whom voted for President Trump in 2016.

Cate Blanchett

Australian actor Cate Blanchett, who was presenting an award, used her time onstage to give thanks to the volunteer firefighters in Australia and to draw attention to the global “climate disaster.”

“There are a lot of Australians in the room tonight. I know we are all very grateful for the call-outs to our fellow compatriots who are suffering under the bushfires, so thank you,” she said. “I wanted to do a special call-out to the volunteer firefighters who have been at the centre of battling the climate disaster that is facing Australia. And, of course, when one country faces a climate disaster, we all face a climate disaster, so we’re in it together, so thank you very much.”

Joaquin Phoenix

While Joaquin Phoenix’s acceptance speech for best actor in a drama film for his starring role in Joker was a bit of an expletive-filled mess, it did have some important bits, including a call for action on climate change.

The actor, who is vegan and an animal-rights activist, first applauded the awards show for its plant-based menu and encouraged other awards shows to follow suit.

“I would like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press for recognizing and acknowledging the link between animal agriculture and climate change,” he said. “It’s a very bold move making tonight plant based, and it really sends a powerful message.”

He then went on to call on Hollywood and his peers to do better in terms of taking action on climate change.

“Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want to rock the boat. But the boat is f*cking rocked. It’s really nice that so many people have come up and sent their well wishes to Australia, but we have to do more than that,” he said. “I think together, hopefully, we can be unified and actually make some changes. It’s great to vote, but sometimes we have to take that responsibility on ourselves and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives, and I hope that we can do that. We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs… I’ll try to do better, and I hope you do too.”