Politics is never far from Hollywood.
Some of the most celebrated movies from 2014 – including “Selma,” “American Sniper” and “Boyhood” – were loaded with political themes that prompted significant debates.
But what if you could predict the ideological bent of a film by looking at the politics of the people who made them?
Campaign donations, which provide a behind-the-curtain peek at the political views of even the most private celebrities, offer a trove of data to make that possible.
Analysts from Crowdpac, a group that compiles campaign finance data, examined records of actors, producers, directors and crew members who worked on this year’s Oscar-nominated films in search of a correlation between the message of their film and the political views of their creators.
Crowdpac assigned each person a score based on their donor history, ranking them from most liberal to most conservative. The analysts then tallied an average score for each Best Picture-nominated movie.
As many already assume, the film industry is notoriously liberal. In 2012, celebrities donated more than $800,000 to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, compared to just $76,000 for Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to FEC data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Actor Clint Eastwood, who “supported” the Romney campaign by carrying a conversation with an empty chair during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., did not even cut a check to the GOP effort that year.
While there are conservatives in Hollywood, a majority of the industry’s money funds Democrats and the left, to varying degrees.
But when you compare donations from those behind the year’s top films, there’s a broader spectrum of political views than one might think.
Take the contenders in the “Best Picture” category, where nominees range from “very liberal” to “moderate.”
The cast and crew that produced “American Sniper,” which explores the life of late Navy SEAL sharpshooter Chris Kyle during his tours in Iraq, are the most moderate compared to the other nominees. “Sniper’s” score is weighted by director Clint Eastwood’s $23,760 in donations to both parties since 2000, including gifts to Republicans such as Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell and John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee in 2008. Producer Andrew Lazar has donated exclusively to Republican causes, pouring $3,000 to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign in 2006.
Actor Bradley Cooper, who portrays Kyle in the film, made a one-time donation to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign in 2000.
On the far left side of the spectrum, “The Imitation Game,” “Birdman” and “Selma” all earn scores of 9L and above, making them the most liberal of the Oscar’s top prize nominees.
By far, “Birdman,” a movie about a former super hero movie actor seeking artistic redemption by producing a serious Broadway play, has the most politically active roster. According to campaign finance data 16 people affiliated with the film have made political donations. Michael Keaton, who stars in the picture, has donated exclusively to Democrats, including Obama, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and Montana Sen. Jon Tester.
For “Selma,” which portrays the 1965 civil rights march led by Martin Luther King Jr., eight donors on the film gave $448,602 to political causes, a majority of which came from $400,000 in donations to to gay rights causes from Executive Producer Brad Pitt between 2008 and 2012.
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Provided below is a breakdown of each film’s Crowdpac score with the total number of donations:
Imitation Game - 9.4L (4 donors - $4,441)
Birdman - 9.2L (16 donors - $518,602)
Selma - 9L (8 donors - $448,408)
Boyhood - 8.7L (11 donors - $39,515)
Whiplash - 8.6L (7 donors - $33,859)
Grand Budapest Hotel - 8.4L (6 donors - $23,500)
Theory of Everything - 6.3L (1 donor - $19,281)
American Sniper - 3.1L (9 donors - $55,959)