Strike specter haunts noms


The writers strike was the elephant in Oscar's living room Tuesday, and nominees of all stripes found it hard to ignore.

The strike didn't so much cast a pall as pose this challenge: How might nominees balance their joy with concern about the now 80-day work stoppage that threatens to hamper Academy Award celebrations Feb. 24?

Sound mixer Peter Kurland acknowledged being emotionally conflicted about his nomination for contributions to "No Country for Old Men."

"I'm perfectly happy to gloat about being nominated," he said. "But it's hard trying not to be too exuberant because all these people are out of work. I hope the strike gets resolved quickly and soon."

Tony Gilroy — who attracted Oscar noms in the original screenplay and directing categories for "Michael Clayton" — said he still supports WGA leaders, the recently announced DGA's new contract notwithstanding.

Some have suggested writers should quickly embrace terms of the directors' pact as a template for their own agreement and end their three-month work stoppage. But Gilroy said he's happy to take his lead in the matter from WGA brass.

"What I know is that I'm not interested in a lot of outside opinions," he said. "I'm not interested in what the bloggers have to say about it. I'm interested in how the negotiating committee and the leadership of the writers guild and their attorneys feel about it. I'm tuning out a lot of the other noise."

The writer-director added that he was buoyed by the start of informal talks between WGA negotiators and studio reps. Those parties discussed Tuesday the prospect of getting more formal negotiations back on track (HR 1/21).

"It's good to see the conversation getting started again," Gilroy said.

Tamara Jenkins, nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for her original screenplay for "The Savages," said she does feel the writers strike "weighs over" this year's Oscars.

"Not that it's making me depressed," she said. "But obviously there is a much bigger issue out there."

She hasn't formed an independent view on current contract issues, Jenkins added.

"Whatever the WGA leaders say, I follow," she said. "They've provided me with a lot of support and a lot of health insurance, and I'm a WGA member."

Meanwhile, barring a sudden end to the strike, WGA leadership must decide whether to extend a strike-rules waiver to the Oscar telecast. That would allow guild writers to participate in the production and eliminate any chance participating actors would face a picket line.

"My main concern is for us to get a fair deal, and the ceremony comes second," said Nancy Oliver, who drew an Oscar nom for her original screenplay for "Lars and the Real Girl."

Ronald Harwood, who penned the Oscar-nominated script for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," declined to address the prospect of picketing at next month's Academy Awards, but he did have a prediction about the writers work stoppage.

"I don't know enough about the waiver decision not living in town," the London-based writer said. "But my prediction is that the strike will be finished before the Oscars. Once the directors made their settlement, I think it's become pretty much inevitable that the writers will settle. I'm talking about human nature."

Julian Schnabel, nominated in the directing category for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," shared the sense that the strike can be ended before the Oscars.

"I think they'll solve it by then," he said. "But the powers that be need to share the new technology reservoir with the writers."

Oscar producer Gil Cates — who also headed the DGA's negotiating committee during that guild's recent contract talks — was keeping a stiff upper lip about this year's added anxiety. Although little has been said officially, the WGA could picket the Academy Awards telecast, and SAG is encouraging actors to honor any picket line.

"The first year I did the show, the Berlin Wall came down," Cates said. "I remember we did the show when we went to war with Iraq, and we canceled the red carpet before it. We're always flexible and fluid, so we can take advantage of what's happening in the world.

"Obviously, it'll be a different show if the writers are on strike than if the writers are not on strike," he added. "We're prepared for both."

Borys Kit and Leslie Simmons contributed to this report.