Mister D: Somebody please resolve this strike. I won’t be able to bare it or bear it (and I like doing both). I want my Bruce Vilanch, I want to see the stars, I want to be able to shoot darts at the winners I don’t like (which I do…suction darts), I want to dress up and have my party…so please, please, for one person’s selfish reasons, give the writers their due and let’s just move forward….
Writers’ strike could radically alter show
By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff | January 23, 2008
The nominees were announced to the usual fanfare. The posh pre-Oscars luncheons are expected to go on. But if the Hollywood writers’ strike persists, next month’s Academy Awards telecast will look very different from the glamour-fests of the past.
Without writers on hand to pen monologues and presenters’ spiels – and with the threat of angry pickets around Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre – A-list actors would likely shun the ceremony. And without the glitz, the Oscars could turn into a strange affair. Producer Gil Cates has hinted about an assemblage of film clips, punctuated by song-and-dance numbers. This month’s Golden Globes was something much smaller: a bare-bones, half-hour-long press conference.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put forth a brave face yesterday, expressing hope that the strike would be resolved by Feb. 24, allowing the Oscar telecast, with Jon Stewart as host, to air on ABC as planned.
“We’re moving forward with all of the plans to do the show as we normally do,” Academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger said in an interview. “It’s our fervent hope that we’re going to be able to do that.”
But if negotiations don’t yield fruit, then big changes are in store for one of TV’s biggest annual events. Last year’s Academy Awards drew 40.2 million American viewers, earning ratings second only to the Super Bowl. The recent Golden Globes, meanwhile, drew a fraction of its usual 20 million viewers. NBC, which was scheduled to air the show, produced an hourlong special instead, in which the hosts of “Extra” read the results at a leisurely pace, dressed in eveningwear.
That’s not something the Oscars would want to replicate, said Toby Miller, a professor of cultural studies at the University of California-Riverside and the author of “Global Hollywood.” Hollywood studios rely on the Oscars for free worldwide publicity, he said, and writers have been winning the global public relations wars.
Without a resolution, Miller said, the Academy would be better off postponing.
“The Golden Globes looked ridiculous,” he said. “It just was pitiful. And the Oscars can’t afford to be pitiful. The pressure on them will be enormous.”
Talks between writers and studios, on hold since early December, are set to resume this week. The writers have made recent side deals with individual production companies. And last week, the Directors Guild of America announced a tentative three-year agreement with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the studios’ bargaining arm. It includes a plan for residual payments for work that appears online, a chief sticking point in the writers’ negotiations.
Some nominees yesterday expressed hope that the issues would soon be resolved. “I have a feeling they’ll solve it. I hope they do,” said “Eastern Promises” star Viggo Mortensen, who was nominated for best actor. “I’m sure my mom would like to see me on TV and so forth, but if there’s a strike I’m not crossing the line.”
And some nominees said they’d go to the ceremony, whether or not the writers picketed. “I don’t think you can postpone it, it’s not like a wedding,” said Lianne Halfon, a producer of “Juno,” a best-picture nominee. “If they throw the party, if they open the door, I’m going to go.”
But in the absence of stars, the party probably won’t be thrown, said writer and comedian Bruce Vilanch, who has written for the Oscar telecast and dressed in drag in “Hairspray” on Broadway.
“My guess is that an Oscars without writers will also mean an Oscars without actors, which will probably mean it will be an Oscars postponed till when it used to occur, at the end of March,” Vilanch wrote in an e-mail to the Globe. “This upsets me to no end . . . as I’ve had several high-end designers vying for who gets to give me my gown.”
Producers and ABC executives have been relatively mum about contingency plans; Unger would only say that producer Cates has been “working on some alternatives” for a show without writers.
The writers’ guild has announced that it will not picket the Grammy Awards, due to air Feb. 10 on CBS. But the Guild has not yet granted a waiver to the Grammys, allowing its members to work on scripts for the show. The guild has granted waivers to the Screen Actors Guild Awards, airing Sunday on TNT and TBS; the NAACP Image Awards, due to air Feb. 14 on Fox; and the Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, airing Feb. 23 on IFC.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.