Talkers too late for Oscar hopefuls


Tallying points after the strike
ABC out front as nets rev up
Writers could return Wednesday
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NEW YORK -- The return of writers -- and celebrities -- to the full palette of late-night shows will be a boon for network television series and upcoming theatrical releases seeking a publicity bump, including Fox's "Jumper," Paramount's "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and New Line's "Semi-Pro."

But it's coming too late for studios hoping to swell support for their Oscar-nominated films and stars.

"A week or two ago this would have made a difference," one veteran awards consultant said. "But most people already know who they're voting for, and most of the nominees are already done promoting their films."

While Oscar balloting doesn't officially close until Feb. 19, the prime campaigning season is essentially over, with the nominees lunch and assorted guild ceremonies already in the books.

Few nominees are expected to fly to a city for just one taping, though guests might do a one-off in their own city. On Wednesday, for instance, supporting actress nominee Amy Ryan ("Gone Baby Gone") will appear on "Late Show With David Letterman."

One of the highest-profile late-night shows signaled its return Monday as sources said that "Juno" star and best actress nominee Ellen Page would host "Saturday Night Live" on March 1, the series' first program after the Academy Awards.

But the ability to use late-night for the Oscars itself, given the tight turnaround, is tricky. Miramax said it had no plans to book stars from "No Country for Old Men" on "The Tonight Show" or other late-night programs. Other Oscar nominees, such as Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood") and Julie Christie ("Away From Her"), are not big on the late-night circuit anyway.

George Clooney, who might have had a second round of interviews for "Michael Clayton," which Warner Bros. put back into release after its Oscar noms, might hold back now that he has a new movie to launch in five weeks, "Leatherheads," which he directed, produced and stars in.

Most nominees this season appeared at the usual round of more intimate events like guild screenings, film festival appearances in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara as well as New York dinners thrown by the likes of Peggy Siegal.

But in the past, late-night shows, particularly "The Tonight Show," have proved a viable launching pad; Oscar historians point to events like Juliette Binoche's late-night tour that helped catapult her to a nomination for "Chocolat" in 2000. The absence of those appearances could impact the race in subtle ways.

Already the BAFTA win for Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") over Christie, seen as something of an upset, had observers speculating over how the Oscar race would look if Cotillard could have worked the late-night circuit during her recent trip to Hollywood.

Supporting actor nominee Casey Affleck ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"), though considered a longshot in the category, could have used the late-night couches to raise his profile and establish himself as a future contender.

Still, it's expected that stars will make appearances on late-night shows for Oscar movies still in theaters -- like "Juno" -- to boost boxoffice.

At "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report," the Oscars will have a different effect. If the strike indeed ends Wednesday, writers would come back for just two shows before going dark next week so that Stewart and his team of writers can prep for the Oscars.

The shows' guest roster wouldn't be heavily impacted, reps said, because it relies more on authors and politicians than movie stars. "You saw less of a difference compared to other networks during the strike, and you'll see less of one now that the strike appears to be over," a spokesperson said.

On Monday, many late-night show were cautious about telegraphing plans for upcoming guests, though the booking action behind the scenes was thought to be frantic as both shows and stars tried to make up for three months of lost time.

NBC declined comment on any guests for "The Tonight Show" and "The Late Show With Conan O'Brien," though both were expected to line up Oscar nominees.

ABC's "Late Show With Jimmy Kimmel" also is expected to be a player as it tries to land Academy Awards nominees to promote the network's Oscar telecast; a rep said it was working to line up Oscar guests.

But one late-night ABC telecast is staying out of the race: a "Nightline" rep said that with the intense political season under way, there were no plans to bring on any Oscar nominees.

Paul J. Gough contributed to this report.