The Wolverine leak story took an unbelievable turn last Thursday when longtime Fox News freelance gossip columnist Roger Friedman posted a review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Not only did he crow that he’d downloaded the film, which he then enthusiastically reviewed. Friedman further explained how he’d been able to find last weekend’s opening films and that he might stay in and watch I Love You, Man, because “it’s so much easier than going out in the rain!”
This actually happened. What would have earned immediate calls from Fox Studios legal reps, if posted by any major movie site, was able to pass editorial muster at Fox. The article was pulled eventually (it was up Friday afternoon, but gone that night) but the complex stupidity of (a) downloading product stolen from your parent company then (b) reviewing it and (c) endorsing other downloads is astonishing. I’ve read criticism of Friedman over the years, which made me chuckle, but even his more moronic writing (like this review of Towelhead) pales in comparison to this Olympic display of idiocy.
(You can see Friedman’s review in this image I screencapped from Google Cache on Friday night; the cached page is now changed, too.)
On Friday afternoon, Drew McWeeney at HitFix saw the review and, that evening, called for Friedman to be fired. Fox Studios quickly issued a statement denouncing the review and explaining that Fox Studios and Fox News Corp are different corporate entities. (Though both eventually answer to owner Rupert Murdoch.)
We’ve just been made aware that Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist
who writes Fox 411 on Foxnews.com – an entirely separate company from
20th Century Fox — watched on the internet and reviewed a stolen and
unfinished version of X-Men Orgins: Wolverine. This behavior is
reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically — whether the
review is good or bad.
Amazingly, Nikki Finke reported last night that action had already been taken. Fox has fired Friedman, whose Fox 411 column the organization ran for over a decade. Or so we’re told. ABC News says Fox spokespeople are refusing to discuss the ‘internal matter’ and quotes Friedman saying that no action has been taken.
And yeah, it’s an internal matter. Suspicion is high that Fox News ran the piece as damage control; how else could any responsible editor let that thing pass? The damage control angle doesn’t even make much sense — how does a positive review of a movie people can download, in a piece which comments upon the ease of downloading, suggest that anyone should wait to see the movie rather than snag it for free?
Footnote: Also gone is the ‘review’ posted by Kent Lundblad as a blog entry on Spill.com. He was quoted in CNN’s article about the leak (still available) and one of the founders of Spill has commented on the blog entry, while another news entry on the site enthusiastically endorses Fox’s action against Friedman. Lundblad just seems to be laughing about the events.
EDIT: Gawker has more details about Friedman’s ‘firing’ — notably, that it hasn’t happened yet. The site says Friedman is meeting with Fox execs today, and that he might lose his job, but that he’ll be able to plead his case.