Actors' strike threat casts shadow over Oscars

Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:29pm EST
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By Steve Gorman and Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Even as Oscar organizers on Friday unveiled Hugh Jackman as the host of their gala film awards, the prospect of a U.S. actors strike was casting a long shadow over whether Hollywood's big show would go on as usual.

The Academy Awards' February 22 date puts it directly in the path of a potential walkout by Screen Actors Guild members who vote next month on whether to give union leaders permission to call a strike in stalemated contract talks with major studios.

Movie making by the big studios has wound down since late June in anticipation of labor strife, compounding a general slowdown from the U.S. recession.

The tension has only been heightened by fatigue from a tumultuous 14-week Hollywood writers strike that ended in February and cost the Los Angeles area economy around $3 billion as production stopped on most prime-time TV shows.

"A strike, if one occurred, would be nothing short of horrible," said Ron Howard, the former actor and Oscar-winning director of "A Beautiful Mind" whose latest film, "Frost/Nixon," is considered a strong Oscar contender.

"The timing couldn't be worse," he said on Thursday.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who on Thursday earned a Golden Globe nomination for his work in "Revolutionary Road," said strike concerns are hitting "everyone."

"It's really important that we come up with a solution," he said. "These are unheard-of times, and no one can predict what is going to happen" with the U.S. economy.   Continued...

<p>The Hollywood Sign is seen between palm trees and snow dusted mountains in Los Angeles in this January 7, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>