- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Will it be flowery gratitude or anti-war rants? Hollywood stars may have to choose when they step to the podium at the Academy Awards this year.
They've got just 45 seconds to make their point. Oscar producer Gil Cates told nominees Monday that they get to thank five persons and that's it.
"If you pull out a piece of paper and start to read a list of names, you're done," Mr. Cates said at an industry lunch. "The orchestra will play and you are finished."
The focus of the event is to "celebrate our art form," he emphasized.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has not warned the stars this year about expressing political opinions, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. But they may not have to.
None of the Oscar nominees has signed a much-publicized "Win Without War" petition to President Bush, supported by actors Mike Farrell, Susan Sarandon and about 100 others.
The nominees seem to have little to say about it.
"The media is sick and tired of people in my position giving their opinions, yet you ask for my opinion," Daniel Day-Lewis, nominated for best actor for "Gangs of New York," told reporters Monday. "And then when I give it, you're going to say, 'Why doesn't he shut up.'"
"America is America and it takes precedence over everything," said Queen Latifah, best supporting actress nominee for "Chicago," adding that her father was a Vietnam War veteran.
"We've got to support our boys and girls over there," she said.
"I was raised to keep my political views to myself," said Nicolas Cage, a best actor nominee for "Adaptation."
Few people would listen anyway. A recent Gallup poll found that eight out of 10 Americans say no "entertainment personality" has the clout to influence how they feel about political issues.
Celebrity political opinions are "risky," even if concise, a Beverly Hills media coach told the Los Angeles Times.
Some stars, however, persist in voicing their opinions. Yesterday, former Oscar winner Jessica Lange and other actors delivered an anti-war petition to the United Nations.
Filmmaker Michael Moore, whose "Bowling for Columbine" was nominated for best documentary, criticized President Bush's foreign policy at the Writers Guild of America awards on Saturday and has been an outspoken liberal gadfly for years.
"The United States is continuing to fake evidence against Iraq," Mr. Moore noted on his Web site Tuesday. "A second U.S. diplomat has resigned over Bush's bloodlust."
Mr. Cates, meanwhile, has adopted his own war footing. The Academy Awards will go on no matter what but within reason.
"If we go to war, the telecast will reflect that reality both in those parts of the show that we can control and those parts that we can't control acceptance speeches," Mr. Cates said.
The Oscar nominees collectively agreed that the tone of the event would be "somber and respectful" should conflict break out near March 23, the scheduled date for the ABC broadcast.
The Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild unions for film actors and writers, respectively continue to fret that stars who speak out against war with Iraq could be blacklisted for their views.
Actor Sean Penn, who visited Iraq in December, believes he was fired from a film project for his activities and is suing the producer. NBC actor Martin Sheen also came forward to say his network was "uncomfortable" with his anti-war views.
"Our industry, perhaps more than any other, understands the necessity of guarding and cherishing those rights for which Americans have fought and died," the actors union said in a statement last week.

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