In classic gossip-columnist style, Roger Friedman has for more than a decade raised hackles, nursed grudges, launched vendettas, staged bitch-fests and also broken news in his entertainment column for Fox News, Fox411.
He made plenty of enemies in the process. But Friedman finally did himself in this weekend when he boasted on his blog that he had downloaded the leaked copy of the upcoming blockbuster “Wolverine” and reviewed it in advance — an act of piracy that the company could not tolerate.
“Right now, my ‘cousins’ at 20th Century Fox are probably having apoplexy,” he blithely wrote in the post, since removed. “But everyone can relax. I am, in fact, amazed about how great Wolverine turned out. It exceeds expectations at every turn. I was completely riveted to my desk chair in front of my computer.”
As a veteran of the world of hard-nosed publicity barter, Friedman probably figured he could squirm out of an uncomfortable situation by praising the film.
Turns out Friedman was working out of an old playbook. The decision to terminate him was made over the weekend, a News Corp executive confirmed. “It’s a matter of principle,” said the executive.
Friedman has been called in to meet with his bosses at Fox News on Monday, to officially get the news.
The blogosphere brought it to the attention of Fox.
On Thursday, Drew McWeeny at Hit Fix asked the studio if it knew that Friedman had downloaded and reviewed the movie. Fox responded: “[Friedman’s] behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically — whether the review is good or bad.”
The blogosphere continued to clamor. “Can Friedman really be that clueless?” demanded Cinematical.com. “That’s a great start — but what else are they gonna do?”
By Saturday, Deadline Hollywood Daily reported, Fox did do something else — it fired Friedman.
Friedman is far from a warm and fuzzy gossip columnist; he considers himself an expert on Michael Jackson and frequently breaks news in the music industry.
But Friedman’s sharp-edged tone is reflected in various tussles he has had with celebrities, publicists and studios. A brief Google search turns up a quick half-dozen catfights and snark-fests, including one with blogger David Poland, who dissected Friedman’s erroneous complaints about “The Passion of the Christ” in 2004.
Friedman notoriously blogged about problems involving the MGM film “Valkyrie,” then complained when he wasn’t invited to the premiere. And last month he wrote a rambling blog about Julia Roberts:
“When she saw me last night at the premiere of her sleek new thriller, ‘Duplicity,’ Roberts didn’t hesitate to cut me dead,” he wrote. “She was rude, downright nasty and dismissive. She snubbed me in front of other people to make her point, and later cut in between me and director Tony Gilroy to make her point. Her behavior was unexpected and chilling.”
This was because Roberts’ publicist mistakenly identified Friedman as having written something “terrible” about the star.
News Corp issued this statement to DHD: “Roger Friedman’s views in no way reflect the views of News Corporation. We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy.