Thursday, March 20, 2003
New York Barbara Walters is stepping away from the Oscars, but Joan Rivers isn't.
ABC on Wednesday postponed Walters' annual Oscars interview special -- this year to feature Nicolas Cage, Renee Zellweger and Julianne Moore -- because of the confrontation with Iraq.
If war is under way Sunday night, there was a strong chance Walters' special would be pre-empted for news coverage anyway.
The same possibility exists for the Academy Awards ceremony on ABC. Organizers have promised to go on, but have canceled the splashy red carpet arrivals for celebrities at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood for fear it would set an inappropriate tone.
That would seem disastrous for the E! Entertainment network, whose eight hours of pre-Oscars coverage is centered on the comments about stars' wardrobes by Rivers and her daughter, Melissa.
Her show may be dramatically different this year, focused less on fashion and interviews and more on Oscar predictions, but E! isn't abandoning it, said Mark Sonnenberg, the cable channel's entertainment chief.
"For a lot of people, there's a comfort there -- if Joan is on the red carpet, it's OK," he said Wednesday.
The Academy Awards pre-show is the Super Bowl for E! -- it traditionally gets the network's highest ratings of the year.
Rivers will display an appropriate tone, Sonnenberg said.
The Oscar ceremony itself, from host Steve Martin's monologue to the celebrity presentations and film clip montages, is also being changed this year to reflect the nation's mood. Telecast producer Gil Cates refused to cite specifics on how the ceremony would address the impending conflict.
"Dead Man Walking" Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, an outspoken critic of President Bush's Iraq policies, is scheduled to make a presentation during the ceremony, but Cates said he was sure "she won't even try" to alter her script to add antiwar remarks.
Winners, Cates insisted, are free to say whatever they like.
Cage, a lead-actor contender this year for "Adaptation," said he would keep his political views to himself, while others have said it would be appropriate to talk about world events onstage.
"The Oscars are not a political forum but a prayer for peace would be all right," said Ed Harris, a supporting-actor nominee for "The Hours."
If "mouthy liberal actors" want to pretend to be politicians, then they should be subject to the same equal-time provisions, said Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative watchdog organization.
"We shouldn't have to endure vacuous political rants in silence without an opportunity to respond," Lafferty said.