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Film Academy Rebukes CAA for Inaccurate Ad

Media: Oscar group says the powerful talent agency included many clients who weren't nominated for an Academy Award in its full-page congratulation.

April 13, 2002|ROBERT W. WELKOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an unusually sharp and public display of displeasure with one of Hollywood's most powerful talent agencies, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday took Creative Artists Agency to task for a full-page advertisement saying that 32 of its clients had received Academy Award nominations when half of those listed weren't nominated this year.

The academy, in a full-page ad published Friday in the trade papers Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, called CAA's ad "unprecedented" in Oscar history and said it was issuing the public rebuke to foster "a return to scrupulous accuracy in awards-related advertising in future years."

Academy President Frank Pierson on Friday called the CAA ad "wretched excess" and the latest example of the "hysteria" that swirled around this year's Oscar campaigning.

"We wanted to get it out that we don't like it," Pierson said. "Maybe everybody should take a step back and think about what they are doing during the Oscar season."

CAA had no comment Friday about the controversy. But when asked about the inaccuracies alleged by the academy, an agency representative defended the ad as "celebratory."

"We just like to celebrate our clients," the agency said, according to the academy's ad.

Vanity ads with congratulatory sentiments are a staple of the Hollywood trade papers, but CAA's ad drew immediate comments.

What infuriated many, from the heads of rival talent agencies to rank-and-file academy members, was a March 22 ad in the Hollywood trade papers in which CAA listed 32 clients who received Academy Award nominations, but failed to mention that 16 of the people were not nominated this year.

Pierson said the academy, which zealously guards the image and reputation of its awards, tried to deal with the problem quietly.

"We protested and CAA had the opportunity to put out a letter [apologizing], which they did not do," Pierson said. "So we thought we should draw it to people's attention."

He said "CAA was sorry that they had done it," but the academy, t after waiting for a corrective ad to run, felt it had no choice but to spend thousands of dollars to run its own ads in the trade papers.

The non-nominees listed in CAA's ad included Ewan McGregor for "Moulin Rouge," Marton Csokas, Viggo Mortensen and Liv Tyler for "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," Kristin Scott Thomas for "Gosford Park," Ed Harris for "A Beautiful Mind," and John Goodman and James Coburn, who provided voices in the Disney/Pixar animated film "Monsters, Inc."

Under "Best motion picture of the year," CAA accurately listed director/producer Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer, who took home golden statuettes for their work on the Oscar-winning movie "A Beautiful Mind."

But CAA also listed as nominees Karen Kehela, a production executive at Imagine Films (Howard and Grazier's production company), and Sylvia Nasar, the author whose biography of Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash Jr. formed the basis upon which the Oscar-winning screenplay adaptation by Akiva Goldsman was written.

Sources say Jeff Berg, chairman of talent agency International Creative Management, was among those who called academy officials to complain about the CAA ad. Pierson would not identify any of the callers except to say that the academy was "getting quite a bit of telephonic and e-mail protests from other agencies and from the membership."

In its ad, under the headline "Department of Clarification," the academy addressed the Hollywood community at large, saying: "In the past few weeks many of you have expressed puzzlement or concern about the full-page trade ads run by Creative Artists Agency on March 22 congratulating a roster of CAA clients on having received Academy Award nominations.

"Some of the artists listed in the ad were in fact 2001 nominees, but many were not. Through the years both the academy and the industry have taken considerable care not to allow inaccurate information to be disseminated about which artists have been honored in a particular year with Academy Award nominations and statuettes.

"... It seems prudent to nip this form of enthusiasm in the bud, lest CAA or another even more enthusiastic entity decide next year to celebrate its clients by awarding several dozen of them not just nominations but actual Oscars, or Congressional Medals of Honor, or Nobel Prizes."

Pierson said the academy plans to leave it at that.

"I like CAA," the academy president said. "They're my agents."

*

Times staff writer Claudia Eller contributed to this report.

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