“What are you wearing?” It’s the question awards nominees dread the most on the red carpet, forcing them to feign interest in whatever fashion house hooked them up with free designers duds. But this year, several Academy Award nominees will give a very unique answer to Ryan Seacrest’s favorite query: I’m wearing the victim of gun violence.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has decided to join forces with Hollywood for the movie industry’s biggest event in order to shed light on the 33,000 Americans killed every year by gun violence. Best Director nominee Adam McKay (The Big Short), Best Actor nominee Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Oscar winner Patricia Arquette, Steve Carell, and others will be donning black and gold bracelets as part of Brady’s #ENOUGH campaign—an effort to bring awareness to scourge of gun violence in America, and the importance of strict background checks in order to prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands.
“We developed the concept first and started reaching out once we got the concept, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, told The Daily Beast. “It seemed like a natural fit with the Oscars and awards season, because one of the most common questions you hear is, ‘What are you wearing?’ and we felt it would be a powerful statement to say, ‘I’m wearing the victim of gun violence.’” It’s not just movie stars who can sport the bracelets, either. The Brady Campaign has launched a website, SayEnough.org, where people can read gun violence victims’ stories. From there, they can purchase a bracelet inscribed with the victim’s initials, and the age they were when they died. Gross’s bracelet bears the initials T.A.C., representing Tyesa Cherry—a 16-year-old girl who was gunned down in Chicago.
According to Gross, the celebrities on the Oscars’ red carpet will be wearing bracelets they’ve hand-selected from the website, and it was The Big Short’s McKay and Carell, longtime supporters of The Brady Campaign, who helped spearhead the effort.
“Adam McKay has been a big supporter of ours for a while—he’s really committed to it—and Steve and Nancy Carell have as well,” said Gross. “And when Adam McKay is committed to something, he’s going to reach out to his friends.” He added, “Brad Pitt might be wearing a bracelet, and there are a few others that might as well. You never know, stay tuned.”
The mission of The Brady Campaign is for the Brady Law—expanded background checks on gun purchases—to be administered across the country, putting a stop to the 40 percent of guns in America that are sold without a Brady background check. And their partnership with Hollywood won’t just consist of visibility at the Academy Awards. Gross says that they’ve been actively involved in talks with people of influence in the film and TV industries in order to spread their anti-gun violence message to screens big and small.
“We’re very involved,” said Gross. “We have an all-out effort to engage the Hollywood community—not just film, but also very importantly television. You look back at all the issues where we’ve seen real cultural change over the last couple of decades, and TV has been a very big part of it, going tack to Moonlighting when Dave and Mattie buckled up in the front seat, or on 90210 when Brandon told Dylan, ‘Give me your keys, you’ve been drinking too much,’ so there’s a real chance here to display the consequences of guns in the home, or when guns get into the wrong hands.”
He pauses. “We have a great opportunity to demonstrate what really happens when a parent brings a gun into the home thinking they’re going to use it to protect themselves, and instead, there is a kid who finds that gun and accidentally shoots his sister, or his friend, or takes his own life. That’s the nature of gun violence. TV shows and movies could really help demonstrate that. We’re having regular conversations with writers, directors, and researchers—an education campaign with the Hollywood community.”
The Brady Campaign’s Hollywood courtship comes on the heels of the NBA’s Christmas Day PSA to end gun violence—a Spike Lee joint featuring stars Steph Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Joakim Noah, and made in conjunction with Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that bills itself as “a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.” There’s even a film in development, The Senator’s Wife, starring Meryl Streep and produced by Harvey Weinstein, that’s been described as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington… to take on the National Rifle Association.
“We’re going to take this issue head-on, and they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them,” Weinstein said of the NRA and gun manufacturers. “It’s going to be like crash and burn.”
When asked whether The Brady Campaign had any involvement in The Senator’s Wife, Gross remained tight-lipped.
“It seems to me Harvey Weinstein saw a desire to do something along those lines because of his commitment to the issue,” said Gross. “That’s what’s really exciting about the moment—it’s so much bigger than Brady. The voices are everywhere. Kim Kardashian is tweeting about it. We didn’t ask her to tweet about it, it’s because she cares. There’s Steph Curry in the NBA, Amy Schumer, and Judd Apatow. This movement is at a tipping point.”