With Birth of a Nation finally hitting theaters today, the postmortem on Nate Parker's largely unsuccessful publicity tour during which he defensively addressed his 1999 rape trial while refusing to apologize for it, has begun.
The Hollywood Reporter published an analysis of what went wrong by talking to several industry insiders with knowledge of the PR plan, and revealed a truly surprising detail: that Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King offered to help Parker with his image problem, and he refused.
"In August, when news reports began to focus on the 1999 rape charges involving Parker and his Birth of a Nation collaborator, Jean Celestin, Winfrey initially seemed ready to help," wrote respected entertainment reporter Kim Masters.
She continued, "Sources say Winfrey suggested Parker address the matter in an appearance with King on her CBS program. But Parker declined. He was angry that what he claims was consensual, youthful sexual experimentation gone awry had become an issue years later despite his acquittal, and that it was happening just when his Nat Turner passion project was not only finished but positioned as a major Oscar contender."
"Since then," Masters concluded, "Winfrey has remained mum regarding Parker, seemingly depriving the filmmaker of an important voice that might have helped him move past persistent questions that seem to be overshadowing his movie and potentially undermining his career."
The article goes on to dissect all the ways Parker ignored the advice and talking points given to him by professionals in favor of a defensive approach, culminating in an appearance on The Steve Harvey Show in which he basically blamed the media. "What are these journalists trying to do?" he asked. "Do they care about anyone involved?"
We'll know by Monday morning if the controversy had the impact on the box office that Parker and Fox Searchlight, the studio that bought the film for $17.5 million, have been fearing.
Watch Parker discuss the negative backlash that he and his film have received with BET Breaks, above.
(Photos from left: Kevin Winter/Getty Images, Mike Windle/Getty Images)
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