The lightbulb went on over John Wilson’s head in the summer of 1980, during a double feature of Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu at a 99-cent theater in Culver City, Calif. ”I asked for my money back,” he recalls, ”and they said no. It really made me mad. On the drive home, I kept thinking about all the bad movies I’d seen that year…” Thus the Golden Raspberry Awards — or Razzies — were born. The first ceremony was held in Wilson’s living room on Oscar night 1981. About 30 people — mostly co-workers at the movie-trailer production company where Wilson was employed at the time — turned up for a potluck dinner where Can’t Stop the Music, starring the Village People, took home the honors for Worst Picture.
Wilson, now a 56-year-old copywriter and publicist, is still handing out dubious-achievement awards 30 years later. Just last year, 300-some people — including Worst Actress winner Sandra Bullock (see timeline) — attended the ceremony at Hollywood’s Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. Voting membership numbers 750, made up primarily of industry folk (though anybody who pays $35 can sign up at Razzies.com). And there’s talk of webcasting the Feb. 26 event. ”Someone told us a webcast could get as many as 25 million viewers,” Wilson says. ”Yeah, right. But we would like to do something.”
A Brief History of the Razzie Awards:
The First Razzie Awards. ”There was a fake stage in John’s apartment,” remembers Wilson’s friend Maureen Murphy, who presented Worst Screenplay (to Can’t Stop the Music). Neil Diamond wins Worst Actor for his turn in The Jazz Singer. Brooke Shields wins Worst Actress for The Blue Lagoon.
The Razzies move out of Wilson’s apartment and into a local elementary school cafeteria. The ceremony is also moved from Oscar night to Oscar eve. Worst Actor goes to Christopher Atkins for A Night in Heaven. Worst Actress goes to Pia Zadora for The Lonely Lady, which also wins Worst Picture.
Bill Cosby, winner of Worst Actor, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Picture for Leonard Part 6, is the first star to voluntarily accept the award, given to him as a gag on Fox’s The Late Show. But Cosby insists his Razzies be made out of solid gold, which cost the network nearly $30,000. The real Razzie — a Super 8 reel and fake raspberry spray-painted gold — is worth only about five bucks.
While appearing on Fox’s The Chevy Chase Show, Tom Selleck accepts his Worst Supporting Actor Razzie for Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. Also that year, Worst Actor goes to Sylvester Stallone for Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Melanie Griffith wins Worst Actress for Shining Through, which also wins Worst Picture.
Director Paul Verhoeven becomes the first winner to accept his Razzie at the actual ceremony, held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Showgirls becomes the all-time champ of bad movies, earning a record seven Razzies, including Worst Actress for Elizabeth Berkley. (In 2001, Battlefield Earth ties with seven of its own. And then in 2008, I Know Who Killed Me wins eight.)
Tom Green attends the ceremony to accept his Worst Actor award for Freddy Got Fingered. Green has to be removed from the stage because he won’t stop playing the harmonica. ”We went out and surrounded him in a big group hug,” remembers Wilson. ”We had to pry his hands off the microphone and carry him off the stage. He was pissed.”
Ben Affleck begrudgingly accepts Worst Actor for Gigli on Larry King Live. Affleck breaks the statue when he grabs it from King, and then he leaves it behind. Wilson auctions off the broken trophy on eBay, where it sells for $1,700. ”Enough money to pay for the hall that year,” Wilson notes.
Halle Berry shows up to accept Worst Actress for Catwoman, while holding her Monster’s Ball Oscar in her other hand. ”First of all, I’d like to thank Warner Bros.,” she begins her speech. ”Thank you for putting me in a piece-of-s— god-awful movie.”
One day before earning her Oscar for The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock accepts her Worst Actress trophy for her performance in All About Steve. ”We didn’t know she was coming until 10 minutes before,” Wilson says.
Leading the hunt for this year’s Razzies are two films that scored nine nominations each, including Worst Picture: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse — which also snagged noms for stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner — and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, which also secured a nom in a new category, Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3-D.