“This Year’s Hottest Star” How Heath Ledger’s Breakout 2001 Movie Became The Center Of Sony’s Fake Review Controversy

8


Summary

  • A Knight’s Tale, starring Heath Ledger, was involved in a fake review scandal where Sony made up a fictional critic named David Manning.
  • The fake review scandal sparked a debate about the ethics of movie promotion and the use of fake quotes in advertising films.
  • Although the fake review claimed Ledger was a future A-list star, it turned out to be true as he went on to receive acclaim and adoration for his performances, including winning a posthumous Oscar for his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight.


SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

The Heath Ledger medieval action comedy A Knight’s Tale found itself at the center of Sony’s fake review scandal when it was released in 2001. A Knight’s Tale is a classic underdog story, starring Ledger as William Thatcher, a peasant squire who poses as a knight so he can compete in tournaments. The film was noted for its delightful use of anachronisms, including out-of-place pop culture references and a soundtrack full of rock and roll hits from the 1970s. A Knight’s Tale was a modest commercial success, grossing a worldwide total of $117.5 million against a budget of $65 million (via Box Office Mojo).

A Knight’s Tale was well-received by critics. It wasn’t unanimously acclaimed, earning a 59% score on Rotten Tomatoes (just 1% below the “fresh” threshold), but it did receive plenty of positive reviews. Critics praised Ledger’s performance, Brian Helgeland’s direction, and the inventive use of hit songs by artists like Queen and David Bowie on the historically inaccurate soundtrack. However, not all of the film’s critical praise was genuine, and A Knight’s Tale ended up becoming the poster child for Sony’s controversial use of fake review quotes in its movie marketing.

Related: 20 Crazy Behind-The-Scenes Details About A Knight’s Tale


Heath Ledger’s A Knight’s Tale Was Affected By A Fake Review Scandal

Heath Ledger is declared a winner by Paul Bettany in A Knight's Tale.

A Knight’s Tale became the subject of a scandal when it was discovered that David Manning – a film critic who was quoted in the marketing for A Knight’s Tale from a review that dubbed Ledger “this year’s hottest new star!” – was a fictional creation. Manning supposedly worked as a movie critic for The Ridgefield Press, a small weekly newspaper in Ridgefield, Connecticut. When Newsweek’s John Horn did some digging, he found that The Ridgefield Press had never heard of Manning, much less employed him to write glowing reviews of mediocre films. The paper’s actual movie reviews were penned by the father-and-son team of Mark and Jonathan Schumann.

Following the Newsweek investigation, Sony admitted that Manning was an invention of its marketing department to help sell Columbia Pictures’ movies. Manning was also quoted from non-existent positive reviews in the marketing for Hollow Man and Vertical Limit, and his most glaringly fictitious review quote unironically described the Rob Schneider comedy The Animal as “another winner!” The revelation that Sony’s marketing team had made up a critic and used his fake quotes to advertise their films sparked a debate over the ethics of movie promotion.

Why A Knight’s Tale’s Falsified Quote Was Secretly Right All Along

Heath Ledger on horseback in A Knight's Tale.

Unlike Manning’s absurd declaration that The Animal is “another winner,” his fake review for A Knight’s Tale actually turned out to be correct. Manning’s review of A Knight’s Tale proclaimed Ledger to be a future A-list star, and although this assertion wasn’t true at the time, it ended up being right on the money. Ledger went on to receive widespread acclaim and fan adoration for his performances in Monster’s Ball, Ned Kelly, and Brokeback Mountain, although Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is probably his best-known role and the one which he won a posthumous Oscar for.

Source: Box Office Mojo, Newsweek