NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Hollywood woke up Tuesday to one weird awards season.
A day after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) indicated it would not allow producers of the Academy Awards and Golden Globes to hire striking writers for their shows, Hollywood stars and their nervous handlers wondered whether they would be able to attend two of the year’s biggest events.
The Academy Awards are the more significant show from a financial and prestige standpoint, but the focus was on the Globes because they precede the February 24 Oscar ceremonies.
Many stars have made plans to attend the booze-laden Globes ceremony at the Beverly Hilton on January 13, but were ready to call off the evening if the WGA didn’t grant its blessing.
“You treat this as if you’re planning a vacation while your mother-in-law is ill,” said publicist Stan Rosenfield, who represents Globes nominee George Clooney. “You book the flight and the hotel, and then if she’s still not feeling well, you make a call and don’t get on the plane. But you have to prepare for everything.”
Rosenfield said many actors would not go if a picket line was in place. The topic is so sensitive that a number of publicists — including Alan Nierob, who represents Mel Gibson and Steve Martin — wouldn’t even comment about why their clients weren’t commenting.
Actors are also awaiting guidance from their union, the Screen Actors Guild. SAG president Alan Rosenberg said in a statement that his union “is in the process of reaching out to our elected leadership, and our members who have been nominated for Golden Globe awards. We will advise them of our position once we have completed that outreach.”
Last week, talent had mostly come down against going under such conditions; Ernest Borgnine was among the few who sounded an enthusiastic note about attending, with most others much more circumspect. “No one wants to be the first out there,” personal publicist Bebe Lerner said.
Steven Spielberg’s spokesman, Marvin Levy, said he was not aware whether Spielberg had decided to attend. Spielberg is getting the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement.
The stars’ attendance hinges largely on the presence of a picket line, and such a line is not necessarily a given even with the WGA’s denial of a waiver, given the time between now and the shows.
To what degree the WGA’s position was a firm stance or one move that is part of a larger endgame was an open question to many execs.
For their part the organizers of the Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and Dick Clark Prods., are trying to prevent a picket by cutting an interim labor pact with the WGA, which launched its first strike in almost two decades on November 5.
“The way the WGA has played this is very smart,” one Hollywood insider said. “If they started by granting a waiver, then they’d have no leverage to ask Dick Clark or the HFPA to support the writers. But by starting this way, they have a lot of leverage.”
The guild could, could for example, quietly ask the organizers to encourage talent to speak out in support of the writers, possibly even by wearing ribbons or otherwise making statements.
That could turn the Globes into a de facto picket line, a move that would complicate the situation for NBC. The only way for the network to keep ratings up would be to bring talent to the Beverly Hilton, but the only way talent may enter the room would be if they criticize networks like NBC.
The public relations dimension of a scaled-back Globes was one of many elements taking shape Tuesday.
The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the bargaining arm of the studios, posted a statement on its Web site that said “in the category of Worst Supporting Union, the nominee is the WGA,” saying that with the denial of the waiver, the writers guild was damaging “the creative artists who deserve to be honored for their work over the last year.”
The studios are expected to pressure their stars to attend, especially those looking to use the Globes as a box office boost to movies still in theaters or an Oscar launchpad.