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Academy briefing

Cates urges short speeches at Oscar lunch

The 20th annual Oscar Nominees lunch unspooled Monday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with yet another call from Oscar show producers to keep acceptance speeches to a minimum.

After showing clips of past acceptance speeches to emulate — including terse “thank yous” from Alfred Hitchcock and William Holden — Oscar telecast producer Gil Cates laid down the ground rules for the upcoming edition.

Cates, who is producing the show on ABC for the 10th time, unveiled the Academy’s latest ploy in its ongoing attempt to hold the event to a three-hour running time.

The Academy is calling upon all nominees to write up a laundry list of people to thank. Winners’ lists will be immediately posted on the Oscar Web site, Oscar.com.

“I’ve tried everything: charm, humor, persuasion, bribery,” he quipped.

“You need to keep your acceptance speeches limited to 45 seconds,” Cates told the assembled. “If, within that time, you deliver a moving, articulate monologue about what this moment means to you, all the better. … Of course, if you’ve exceeded your 45 seconds, all bets are off.”

Turning to old black-and-white clips of previous ceremonies, Cates said that previous winners knew how to be succinct.

“I mean, these people had families, husbands, wives, children. They had colleagues, collaborators, co-workers, agents, publicists, lawyers … and yet they didn’t need to mention all of these people by name in order to express their gratitude,” he said.

In recent years, Oscarcasts have suffered from considerable overruns –and a downturn in the ratings. Last year’s telecast exceeded four hours.

In addition to the Web site option, the Academy will award a high definition TV set to whichever Oscar winner delivers the shortest acceptance speech. If there are ties, more than one set will be bestowed.

Although the 100-odd Oscar hopefuls in attendance seemed less enthusiastic than simply bemused by the offer of the TV sets, several said they thought the idea of the Web posting was “a good one.”

Actor Ed Harris, who is up for best actor for his role in “Pollock,” said he thought the idea was a sound one. Ditto “Traffic” producer Laura Bickford, who said she would abide by the Academy’s suggestion and have something ready “just in case.”

The event included a group photo of all the nominees in attendance and the presentation of Academy certificates of honor.

Turnout for the event was considerable, with best actor nominee Javier Bardem saying he was “psyched” by the whole thing and best actress hopeful Juliette Binoche declaring it “an illusion, and I want it to stay like that.”

All the nominees for actor and actress kudos except for Julia Roberts were on hand. Among the director contenders, only Ang Lee attended.

Timeout before ‘Tiger 2’

Lee told reporters backstage that “Crouching Tiger,” which is also up for best picture, had taken so much out of him that he now wants to make “an American movie” before tackling the prequel to the martial arts Oscar contender.

Best actor nominees were particularly verbal during the lunch.

“Tom (Hanks) and I were just chatting, and we both agreed that it would be great if we could take all of the nominated actors and recycle the roles and remake the same films,” Rush said.

“I mean, imagine Javier Bardem as the Marquis de Sade! We told Gil Cates that we are really on to something here. And both Tom and I would of course duke it out to be the gladiator.”

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