Oscars hit by absence of Hollywood’s big stars
The Independent (London, England)
February 23, 2009
It was the biggest event of the year for an industry built on the twin pillars of glamour and celebrity, but last nights Oscars were overshadowed by a row over the sudden absence of Hollywoods biggest stars.
Organisers admitted an attempt to build suspense around the ceremony by keeping the identity of presenters secret had backfired, after several prominent names took advantage of their anonymity to withdraw.
Bruce Vilanch, the writer of the revamped Oscar ceremony broadcast early this morning in Britain, said the last-minute snubs had forced him to make late changes to his script.
This year, since no ones names have been announced, theyre all free to back out and nobody will know, he said before the event. And some of them have taken that option.
Even before the late withdrawals, producers had been fretting over the reluctance of some stars to accept the once-prestigious invitation to present one of the 24 Oscar statuettes.
George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, Jack Nicholson and Kate Winslet all declined invitations, according to an expos on the Hollywood journalist Nikki Finkes website.
Clooney did not want to reschedule a visit with his father to Chad refugee camps. Kidman, who co-starred with the Oscar host, Hugh Jackman, in Australia, was allegedly unwilling to appear because the right hairdresser was not available. Angelina Jolie and Kate Winslet, both nominated for the best actress award, were at the event anyway but Winslet apparently said she would be too nervous to present. The ceremony was revamped this year to reverse years of declining TV ratings. A record low 32 million people tuned in last year. This years viewing figures will be announced tomorrow.
Advertisers such as General Motors and LOreal withdrew their support, making the cost of a TV ad space fall from $1.7m (1.2m) to $1.4m. Both companies cited the turgid economic climate as the reason, as well as the demographics of TV audiences: the average US viewer is 49.
Hoping to bring younger viewers back, the shows producers, Laurence Mark and Bill Condon, persuaded a handful of young actors to present awards at the Kodak Theatre. They included Zac Efron, Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. Judd Apatow also made a film for the event. But some attempts to jazz up the ceremony caused controversy. Mark and Condon decided last years winners in the major acting categories were insufficiently glamorous to present on their own, so other previous winners joined the 2008 best actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), best supporting actor (Javier Bardem), best actress (Marion Cotillard) and best supporting actress (Tilda Swinton) on stage to present the top awards.
Hugh Jackman performed a song and dance routine in a top hat, carrying a cane. But some critics wondered if the appeal of People magazines sexiest man in the world would extend much beyond the events core audience of housewives and gay men.