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Producers happy, stuntmen mad

Oscars tighten rules on credit while nixing new stunt category.

June 23, 2005|Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writer

The Academy Awards announced Wednesday that it was tightening its rules designed to clamp down on the number of Oscar statuettes given out to producers for best picture and also turning down a request by Hollywood stuntmen to create an Oscar category for stunt coordinators.

The producers decision was hailed by the 2,000-member Producers Guild of America, which has been lobbying for years to curb the number of undeserving "produced by" credits on films.

But the decision by the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to reject a new stunts category came as a stinging blow to stunt coordinators, who stage those breathtaking action sequences seen in big Hollywood action movies.

Stuntmen reacted to the news Wednesday with anger and disappointment. Despite almost 15 years of failure in their efforts, they vowed to continue their lobbying for Oscar recognition and said they might even protest at next year's Oscar ceremonies.

The producers decision continues a campaign the academy has been waging ever since 1998's "Shakespeare in Love" won best picture, and a total of five producers, including then-Miramax Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein, went up on stage to collect their golden statuettes.

The academy subsequently ruled that only three producers at most can receive Oscars for best picture but left it up to the producers to squabble among themselves and come up with three names.

Now, however, the decision will be taken out of the filmmakers' hands and given to the executive committee of the academy's producers branch. The committee will have the power to reduce the number of producers nominated to two or even one if they determine that the others do not qualify.

Academy President Frank Pierson issued this statement Wednesday: "What we're doing is further reducing the possibility of someone receiving one of our highest awards without really having done the job of a producer."

Before the producers branch makes its decision on which producers qualify to receive the Oscar, the producers will be vetted by the Producers Guild of America.

Guild Vice President Hawk Koch, who is also a member of the academy's board of governors, said the decision was "a long time coming. There are people who take producer credits who don't produce the film."

The producer credits of all contending pictures with more than one producer will now be vetted for legitimacy by the guild's arbitration process before the academy's producers branch executive committee, using the guild's criteria of who constitutes a producer, makes its own decision.

Meanwhile, Hollywood stuntmen were planning their next moves after a major setback on their hopes of having an Oscar category named for their craft.

Pierson issued a statement Wednesday saying the board of governors had rejected the request by stuntmen because "the board is simply not prepared to institute any new annual awards categories."

Veteran stuntman Jack Gill, who has lobbied 15 years to have the academy create an Oscar for his profession, said Wednesday that he was "baffled" by the board's decision.

"We are responsible for every piece of action in a movie, and action movies are bigger than they ever were," Gill said.

He noted that the board wasn't saying they didn't deserve their own category but just that the board wanted to reduce the number of statuettes awarded annually.

In another decision, the academy's board voted Tuesday night to cap at three the number of songwriters who can receive a statuette for best original song.

The move came after the Northern California pop-rock band Counting Crows was nominated at the 77th Annual Academy Awards for "Accidentally in Love" from "Shrek 2." The nomination went to seven members (one of those musicians, Matthew Malley, has since left the group), and lyrics were written by Crows singer Adam Duritz and guitarist Daniel Vickrey. The song lost.

The new rules specify that "no more than two statuettes will normally be given" but makes a provision for a third "when there are three essentially equal contributors to a song."

The 78th Academy Awards show will be held March 5.

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