Producers worried stars may not show up

Golden Globe noms will be announced Thursday, but this year there’s double the suspense: not only who will be nominated, but who will attend.

The Globes, to be telecast Jan. 13 on NBC, has asked for a waiver from the Writers Guild of America in order to allow guild scribes to pen the kudocast’s script, but few expect it will be granted.

So will the stars — both presenters and nominees — be willing to cross the picket line?

The WGA continued to be mum on the Globes question Tuesday but it has granted a waiver to the Screen Actors Guild’s 14th annual awards — not a completely surprising development, given SAG’s strong support for the WGA throughout the six-week strike.

It’s a safe bet that all upcoming televised kudocasts — which include the Critics Choice Awards, the SAG Awards, Independent Spirit Awards and the big kahuna, the Oscars — will proceed as scheduled, since the networks and the voting orgs have too much invested to cancel them.

SAG, in response to questions, said its interim agreement with the WGA covers a professional union writer for its Jan. 27 show in Los Angeles.

“WGA’s support for the Screen Actors Guild and the SAG Awards — an event that pays tribute to the extraordinary work of actors and highlights the importance of the labor movement in the entertainment industry — is welcome recognition of the strong bond of solidarity between our two creative guilds,” national exec director Doug Allen said. “We’re grateful to the WGA for working with us to accomplish this understanding and strongly support their efforts to get a fair contract.”

The waiver also means that the SAG Awards, telecast on TBS and TNT, won’t be picketed. The WGA previously granted waivers to the Kennedy Center Honors telecast and for Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS benefit at Paramount.

But for the other shows, attendance of nominees in all categories is a question mark; of particular concern to the networks is the presence of star contenders or presenters. Actors have shown solidarity on picket lines, but optimists are hoping that, even without a waiver, kudos shows will warrant a cease-fire, so stars can attend without guilt or censure.

One major producer said, “You’ve got a guy like George Clooney, who has been outspoken and who has given money to a strike fund. If he gets nominated for ‘Michael Clayton,’ it’s very difficult to imagine him crossing a picket line — to say nothing of all those television actors who’ve been photographed walking on picket lines in solidarity with the writers. They can’t think it’s OK to cross because they’re up for an award.”

In theory, people in the film and TV business will want to honor their colleagues, but there are questions of priorities: At least one showrunner on a TV series is refusing to even do publicity for his show, since he feels that will bolster the companies that he’s striking.

One agent of top stars hopes that, waivers or not, there won’t be protests outside awards shows. “What good will the writers accomplish by picketing shows that celebrate their fellow artists? It would be spectacularly unfair to force fellow artists to stay away. Do studios make money from the show? Of course, but so do all the artists. This is a celebration of artists, and it should have nothing to do with politics between the guild and the studios.”

A Daily Variety poll showed overwhelming support for the writers. But it’s hard to predict the mood by Jan. 13 (the Globes telecast), much less the Feb. 24 Oscarcast.

Of course, most people hope that the strike will be resolved by then. But the rancorous end to the talks on Friday and the ensuing verbal volleys have fueled a fear that the strike could be a long one.

Said one prominent celebrity publicist: “We are all waiting to hear what the guild will do before we figure out what clients should do, but we are hopeful they’ll grant the waiver.”

The WGA has not weighed in yet on waivers for any shows, but few expect them to promote the work of the studios and networks they are striking. And pickets will provide a chance for their grievances to be aired in red-carpet coverage.

A special case, of course, is the WGA Awards themselves. The Feb. 9 ceremony will not be televised, so, by attending, scribes would not in any way be promoting a network.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and NBC usually only hire two or three writers for the Globes, which has no host.

But Oscar will have to deal with the added question of Jon Stewart, who has declined to resume his latenight talkshow since the strike began. It’s a little early to make decisions yet: Most kudos shows start the writing process after nominations are announced.

The hosts and voiceover talent at awards shows perform as members of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

In 1988, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was denied a waiver just weeks after the WGA strike started. The Acad enlisted comic performers to write their own material; while there were onstage jokes about the walkout, viewers at home barely noticed any difference in the lineup of nominees and presenters.

In contrast, almost no stars showed up for the 1980 Emmy telecast, which came during the SAG-AFTRA strike. The only winner in attendance was Powers Boothe, who won for his work in the telefilm “Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.”

(Tim Gray contributed to this report.)

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