Glitz out as stars ponder Oscar protest

Anti-war feeling leads to tight security and crackdown on glamour at ceremony

The red carpet has been rolled up, the navel-plunging gowns slipped back on their hangers, the 'bling-bling' jewels returned to the banks and instead of glitzy arrivals, stars will will go straight to their seats.

As the bombs continue to fall in Iraq, tonight's Oscars have been given a sober makeover by stars desperate to find a way of marrying their desire for publicity with their fear of alienating an increasingly peacenik public.

Having made a last-minute decision to go ahead with the ceremony after weeks of increasingly frenetic 'will-they, won't-they' jitters, organisers and celebrities alike are already mounting a campaign of damage limitation.

A small number of celebrities, including Will Smith and Angelina Jolie - both due to present awards - and Cate Blanchett and Tom Hanks, have pulled out of the ceremony, voicing disgust that America's annual parade of self-congratulation is going ahead despite the war. Designers Giorgio Armani and Collette Dinnigan have cancelled trips to Hollywood to dress the stars and left it to their US-based associates to do the pampering instead.

A determination to 'down-gown', that is, to exchange frivolous glitz with muted glamour, has been announced as the tactic of choice by celebrities keen to demonstrate their sensitivity and political awareness but unwilling to boycott the ceremony altogether.

British actors feature strongly in this year's Academy Awards and many have spoken out against the ceremony taking place: British star Daniel Day-Lewis, competing for Best Actor for Gangs of New York against fellow Londoner, Sir Michael Caine - nominated for The Quiet American - has said: 'It would seem obscene if we were grinning and waving, and there's people dying somewhere in the world.'

As yet, however, there has been no confirmation that any British stars are to follow through their anti-war sentiments and boycott the event with most refusing to commit themselves until they know what everyone else is doing. A similar statement has been made by the favourite to win best actress, Nicole Kidman who has stated she will make up her mind on the day.

A favoured tactic has been for to insist that it is symbolically important that the show goes on; Catherine Zeta-Jones, in line for best supporting actress for her role in Chicago, has said she hoped the ceremony would go ahead even if a war was raging as people needed some form of escapism in times of trouble.

'The movie industry has been going steadfast through all the difficulties in the last century,' she said. 'Not that people should forget, but it's a great escape and it's important to keep that morale up.'

Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, agreed: 'At a time when American culture and values are under attack all over the world, we think it is more important than ever that we honour those achievements that reflect us and America.'

Instead, stars have opting for more muted displays of political awareness: some after-show parties have been scrapped although Sir Elton John has merely increased security at his bash, insisting 'We will just have to try to have a good time.'

Donning an anti-war totem is also popular. Among the actors who have said that they will wear anti-war badges are nominees Day-Lewis, Adrien Brody, Pedro Almodóvar Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore as well as veteran star Dustin Hoffman.

Yet even that decision has been difficult for some actors to make. Ben Affleck is among those who has apparently not yet made up his mind. Instead he has announced that the final decision will rest with his stylist. Nor is it just the stars who are affected by this new pared-down ceremony. The 500 photographers, TV cameramen and reporters who normally work the carpet have been told that this year the stars do not want to talk and have undergone FBI background checks before they were issued with their credentials.

But even so, the stars have had to accept that there could be frequent interruptions to proceedings, which are being broadcast live, so ABC - the U.S. network which controls the TV rights -- can run news flashes on the war's progress.


Amelia Hill, London and Edward Helmore, New York

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Letter from LA: 10 films you need to see if you want to be in the Oscar loop

There are 10 films you need to see if you want to be in the Oscar loop. And here they are... with accompanying gossip.

Anne Thompson

17, Nov, 2002 @12:59 AM

Freebies for the stars

It's not just recognition from one's peers that makes being an Oscar nominee so worthwhile. Stars love freebies, and it's like Christmas again for them.

23, Mar, 2003 @3:17 AM

Julianne, Renée... they're all just so much window dressing
At the Oscars, don't let a handful of super-glamorous Hollywood actresses pull the wool over your eyes. Take a look at the list of nominations and you will get an all too familiar picture of the gender inequality in the movie business today.

Cherry Potter

23, Mar, 2003 @3:17 AM

Hollywood throws out the script...

Strange days at the Oscars last week.

Anne Thompson

30, Mar, 2003 @2:43 AM

This show will run and run

As the bombs fell on Iraq, the debate went on. To hold the Oscars or not to hold the Oscars?

Anne Thompson

23, Mar, 2003 @3:17 AM

Focus: Gangs of Los Angeles

Bruising, bad-tempered movie producer Harvey Weinstein is at loggerheads with director Martin Scorsese over their epic $100m movie, out this week in the US. And if it proves a flop, the industry sharks are circling, reports Lawrence Donegan.

15, Dec, 2002 @3:13 AM

And the winner should be...

Oscars 2003: Will Chicago or The Hours dominate? Has Martin Scorcese's time come? Our expert panel say who they think deserves to win

09, Feb, 2003 @1:05 AM

The 10 hottest films for the Oscars

This year, the drama and intrigue that surround the Oscars began even earlier than usual.

Anne Thompson

09, Nov, 2003 @1:28 AM

Phillip French: Let's see Pedro up at the podium

Phillip French: ...But don't hold your breath for Roman Polanski.

Phillip French

16, Feb, 2003 @4:25 AM

Our tips to tonight's Oscars

Who will be going home with a statue? We pick the likely winners...

23, Mar, 2003 @3:17 AM