It was widely suspected that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which organizes the Globes, had ordered Gervais to adopt a more sensitive approach before inviting him back for the third time.
However, Gervais' friend Gerard Butler told Yahoo! that the British comedian had been stung by criticism of his 2011 performance and despite much anticipation that he would give Hollywood's finest another roasting, made his own choice to temper his more callous jokes.
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"I think everyone expected him to really go for it again," said Butler, star of "300," "The Bounty Hunter" and "The Ugly Truth." "But after we spoke I thought that he would be a bit more restrained this time around."
"People assume that he doesn't care at all what anyone thinks of him, and of course his humor gives off that impression. But he didn't want to be seen in that way of just attacking people and wanted it to come off differently," said Butler.
"It seemed like one of his priorities this year was finding the right balance of keeping the huge audience entertained but not totally offending people at the same time."
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In 2011, Robert Downey Jr. described Gervais' act as having "mildly sinister undertones" while the film industry's leading lights squirmed in their seats as a string of scathing jokes rained down upon them.
Bringing the 50-year-old back for another hosting gig guaranteed the show extra attention and had some celebrities nervously wondering what jibes might be heading their way, especially after he boasted that he now only accepts assignments that could end his career.
Some stars, though, were actually disappointed not to be one of Gervais' targets. "I wanted him to go after me," said Zooey Deschanel. "I think he is hilarious and I wouldn't mind at all."
As part of his routine, Gervais claimed he had been given a series of conditions by the HFPA and told to steer clear of "profanity, nudity, smut or innuendo and libelous statements."
Yet he admitted prior to the ceremony that he had once again been given a free hand to create a colorful performance, prompting speculation that a similar act to 2011 would be forthcoming.
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"Expect to see a lot of people heading to the bar when he comes on," one publicist told Yahoo! "After last year no one wants to be caught in their seat with the camera on them while he makes some crass comment about them."
In the end though, Gervais' most biting comments might have been when he poked fun at the awards themselves, and broadcaster NBC.
"You have got Britain's biggest comedian, hosting the second biggest award show, on America's third biggest network," he said.
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