Oscar scrambles to keep its stars

Appropriate tones sought for bashes; Walters delays spesh

Will Smith has withdrawn from the Academy Awards, other events are rolling up their red carpets and Barbara Walters withdrew her Sunday night spec as showbiz followed the Academy’s lead for a scaled-back Oscar week.

With war against Iraq begun, showbiz workers are scrambling to figure out what is appropriate this week. While many stars have repeated their intent to attend Sunday’s awards, a few others are said to be waffling.

Smith’s publicist, Stan Rosenfield, said, “He felt uncomfortable in attending and respectfully asked to be excused. There’s no agenda, there’s no speeches. He just felt uncomfortable in attending.”

Despite a rampant rumor Wednesday that Cate Blanchett would no longer be a presenter, a rep said, “She will be there.” Blanchett is in New Mexico lensing Ron Howard’s “The Missing” and her rep said the only possibility of her bow-out would be “due to her fluctuating filming schedule.”

Meanwhile, Walters postponed her ABC special, which was set to air Sunday tied to the kudocast. It includes interviews with nominees Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore and Renee Zellweger. No new air date is set.

“With such serious issues facing the nation, it is the right decision to postpone the special,” said Walters in a statement issued jointly with the web. Decision was made by Walters, ABC network prexy Alex Wallau and ABC News division prexy David Westin.

As for the Oscars, media members were getting the word on Wednesday: Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Approximately 500 media members, repping 300 news outlets, had hoped to be on the red carpet Sunday. Now only a small fraction of them will be allowed (Daily Variety, March 19), and Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences press people on Wednesday were notifying the few who will be permitted. Photographers and camera crews were alerted that the Governors Ball, as expected, will similarly be off-limits.

At other awards-week bashes, party planners moved to cut back press access, unwilling to subject A-listers to war-related questions. Private parties seem to be proceeding unaffected.

Sunday night’s Vanity Fair party won’t have a red carpet or press coverage, and neither will Paramount’s, which is scheduled for the nearby Pacific Design Center’s Astra West restaurant.

Other smaller soirees also canceled red carpet arrivals — though it’s not clear exactly how lavish the red carpets were anticipated to be anyway. Those events included Wednesday night’s Women’s Wear Daily and the Diamond Information Center pre-Oscar bash at Keanu Reeve’s mother’s house.

Other event planners were glad they hadn’t organized a red carpet. “Now there are definitely plans to have none,” said Kieron Kawall, organizer for Wednesday night’s “Evening at Home with the Osbournes” benefit dinner. “We’re trying to keep it as toned-down as we can.”

With fashion focus dimmed, designers have canceled travel plans to Hollywood or departed early. Giorgio Armani canceled his trip, as did Donatella Versace and Beirut-based designer Elie Saab, who designed Halle Berry’s gown last year.

However, some organizers plan to keep their arrivals area intact. The IFP Independent Spirit Awards issued a statement saying its arrival area will be status quo on Saturday. Exec director Dawn Hudson said: “It is our feeling that our ceremonies, and the arrivals that precede it, have always had a different tone than other events. The Spirit Awards have always been a place where artists come together and speak their minds. It is our hope that Saturday’s ceremonies will provide both this type of forum as well as focus on independent film.”

KTLA, Tribune Broadcasting’s WB affiliate in Los Angeles, plans to go ahead with its two-hour Oscar pre-show.

“Live From the Academy Awards,” which airs on several other Tribune stations across the country, will broadcast from 3-5 p.m. Sunday. Sam Rubin, Mindy Burbano and Toni Senecal will still host the coverage. However the content will be different than originally planned.

KTLA was still hammering out content details Wednesday.

(Jill Feiwell, Melissa Grego and Bill Higgins in Los Angeles and Pamela McClintock in Washington contributed to this report.)

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