How avidly is Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey seeking his own Oscar for producing "The Departed" -- a rival studio's movie?
Neither Grey nor the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would say Tuesday after the film received an Academy Award nomination.
But the first tip-off that he has more than a passing interest in who takes home the statuette should the Warner Bros. picture win came shortly before dawn, when the academy referred to the producing nominees on Martin Scorsese's gangster drama as "to be determined."
Some Hollywood insiders have said it would be uncouth and distasteful for Grey to campaign aggressively for a credit on a film made by another studio, especially when he should be throwing his weight behind his studio's own best-picture nominee, "Babel."
Grey produced "The Departed" while still one of Hollywood's top managers and producers, but he took the Paramount job just before Scorsese started shooting. "Babel," which received seven nominations, was the first project Grey set up at Paramount.
It was thought that producer Graham King would be listed as sole nominee for "The Departed" because the Producers Guild of America, which determines the credits, had already made that decision. The academy has an agreement with the guild to follow its recommendations, unless a credit is challenged.
On Tuesday, academy spokesman John Pavlik confirmed that an executive committee of the organization's producers branch would meet this week to decide which producers would be given credit on two films, "The Departed" and "Little Miss Sunshine." That will determine who gets to leap to the stage to accept the Oscar on Feb. 25 should either film win.
According to one person close to the matter, the decision to review's Grey's credit was prompted by letters to the academy from prominent Hollywood figures lobbying on Grey's behalf.
Academy President Sid Ganis said the academy viewed the guild's decisions as recommendations but that it would make the final call on "The Departed" and "Little Miss Sunshine."
Asked whether Grey or his associates had made an appeal, Ganis said, "We keep that aspect of the information confidential. It's private between the academy and the production."
If Grey loses an appeal to the academy for producer credit on "The Departed," as he did when he lobbied the producers guild last month, he could be open to criticism that he should instead be basking in Paramount's own Oscar glory.
Paramount received 19 nominations, including the seven for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel," two for Al Gore's global-warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and eight for "Dreamgirls," which was shut out of the best picture and best directing categories.
Immediately after the guild's decision to credit King as producer of "The Departed," Grey's camp inquired about the academy's appeal process.
Grey recently acknowledged to confidants that making an appeal could be tricky especially if "The Departed" ended up competing with a Paramount film, as turned out to be the case. But he also believed he deserved credit for launching "The Departed," a view shared by Scorsese and King.
The proliferation of producer credits on movies has caused the academy to tighten its rules in recent years. An especially bitter credit war raged last year when producer Bob Yari contended that he was unfairly denied credit for the Oscar-winning "Crash."
When there is a controversy, or when it is unclear to whom the coveted producing credits should go, the academy uses the phrase "to be determined" until a decision is reached. No one was more surprised to hear the news on "The Departed" than King.
"I was totally shocked about the 'to be determined' credit," he said in an interview. "No one gave me the heads up."
Nonetheless, King said he'd be glad to share the credit.
"I'd be very happy if the academy decides that Brad Grey is a producer on it," King said. "It would be nice to have company if we're lucky enough to go up on that stage. But really it's the academy's decision."
Along with King, Grey and his former producing partner, actor Brad Pitt, were given screen credit on the movie by Warner.
Grey's involvement with "The Departed" started in 2003 when he acquired the remake rights to the Hong Kong hit drama "Infernal Affairs." He helped hire screenwriter and nominee William Monahan to adapt the film and sent the script to Scorsese, who received a best directing nomination. He helped negotiate deals for such talent as Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and nominee Mark Wahlberg.