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Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   March 26, 2002 at 4:21 PM   |   Comments

DRUDGE: ACADEMY THUMBS DOWN FOR WHOOPI

According to online gossip Matt Drudge, top officials at ABC and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences are blaming Whoopi Goldberg for the lowest ratings in Oscar telecast history, and thinking about trying to get Oprah Winfrey or Jay Leno to host the 75th Academy Awards next year.

"Whoopi will likely be the fall gal," Drudge quoted a top network source. "Next year, we want one person: Oprah Winfrey! It would be great!" The source said Oprah would be "a host America loves ... someone who can bring magic to the broadcast."

Drudge quoted a "ranking Academy official" as saying that Leno "could finally bring some stability to the ceremony!" The source said the problem with Leno is that ABC is reluctant to feature an NBC star.

The telecast attracted 41.8 million viewers, down nearly 1 million from 2001 and the smallest audience since 1997, when "The English Patient" won for best picture. Still, the telecast ranks as one of the most watched shows of the year.


WHAT ABOUT PEGGY LEE?

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences paused during the Oscars telecast to remember filmmakers who died in the past year, fans of Peggy Lee expected her to be included in the rundown -- so they were disappointed that she was not.

Lee, who died of a heart attack in January at 81, was best known as a singer and recording artist, but her contributions to film were significant.

She was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for "Pete Kelly's Blues" in 1955. The same year, she co-wrote songs and provided voices for several characters in the Disney animated hit "Lady and the Tramp."


OSCARS GOOD FOR BUSINESS

Whatever else the Academy Awards telecast was, it functioned as a four-hour, 16-minute commercial for Hollywood and all its products.

According to Amazon.com, the telecast boosted orders for home videos and soundtracks of Oscar-nominated pictures -- and for older titles featuring honorary Oscar recipients Sidney Poitier and Robert Redford.

"No Man's Land," which won the Oscar for best foreign-language film, recorded one of the largest leaps on Amazon.com's ranking of online sales leaders -- moving up from No. 351 on Friday to No. 91 on Monday and landing the top sot on what the company calls its "DVD Movers & Shakers" list.

Poitier's 1966 drama, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and Will Smith's biopic, "Ali," moved up to occupy the second and third spots on the list.

"Training Day," featuring Denzel Washington's Oscar-winning performance as a rogue cop, and "Shrek," which won the first-ever animated feature Oscar, also showed significant DVD sales increases.

Amazon.com also reported that preorders for the "Gosford Park" home video also jumped dramatically after the Oscars show.

Halle Berry's best actress Oscar win apparently led to a spike in orders for the "Swordfish" DVD, and Washington's win seems also to have contributed to an increase in orders for "Malcolm X" and "Glory."

Other Poitier titles benefiting from the Oscars exposure include "To Sir, with Love" and "Lilies of the Field," for which Poitier won the best actor Oscar in 1963.

Sales for Redford titles including "The Last Castle," "The Way We Were," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Natural" also heated up following the telecast.

Soundtracks for "A Beautiful Mind," "Moulin Rouge," "Shrek" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" all recorded sales increases from Friday to Monday.


WOODY ALLEN MAKES AN EXCEPTION

The world knows Woody Allen made a rare exception to appear on Sunday's Oscars telecast, but telecast producer Laura Ziskin says it was a miracle.

"Every Oscar show producer has wanted Woody Allen," Ziskin told the Los Angeles Times.

She said the story of how he came to say yes began when she asked Nora Ephron ("You've Got Mail," "Sleepless in Seattle") to make a film about New York. She told Jeffrey Katzenberg -- co-head of DreamWorks Pictures, which releases Allen's movies -- that she wanted "more than anything" for Allen to introduce the film.

Ziskin said Katzenberg, DreamWorks marketing chief Terry Press and publicist Leslee Dart got Allen to agree.

"But Woody wouldn't let us tell anybody," she said. "Not even the network knew."

Allen arrived at the Kodak Theatre a half-hour before the telecast, slipped through a rear entrance, and waited in Ziskin's office until he was announced.

"There was no script," said Ziskin, "no TelePrompTer. For live TV it was thrilling."

Ziskin sort of defended the show's four-hour, 16-minute running time.

"I had three honorary Oscars (Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier and Arthur Hiller), seven standing ovations," she said, "and a new Oscar category, best animated feature."


ALLEN'S OSCARS APPEARANCE AN ACT OF LVOE

Woody Allen left the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood as soon as his Oscars gig was over, but he did take 10 minutes to meet with reporters backstage after his surprise appearance on the telecast and explained why he made the exception to his long-standing practice and showed up at the Academy Awards.

"It was hard," he said, "but I wanted to do something for New York and the opportunity presented itself to me sort on a silver platter."

He said his hometown has "had such a tough time of it" he couldn't resist the opportunity to do something to help the city recover from the Sept. 11 attack.

"I'm not a big awards person. I don't feel comfortable in ... any kind of artistic competition," he said. "When I had an opportunity to do this for the city it was a different story. I didn't have to present anything ... just talk about New York City and show it in a light that I feel sincerely about, so it very easy for me to do in that sense."

The Manhattan skyline has been such a prominent part of Allen's filmmaking vocabulary, one reporter wanted to know if he might change his approach to shooting that feature, now that the World Trade Center will be conspicuous by its absence.

"I feel it's ridiculous to pussyfoot around and reframe the shots so it doesn't show that," said Allen. "New York still has a spectacular skyline. It's still a spectacular looking city and I'm sure that whatever they build in its place will enhance it."


'BEDROOM' ACTOR LANDS 'TERMINATOR' ROLE

Nick Stahl -- best known as the son whose murder destroys the lives of a comfortably upper middle class couple in "In the Bedroom" -- is headed for a higher profile, as one of the stars of "Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines."

E! Online reports that Stahl has been cast as John Connor, targeted for termination by cyborgs programmed to prevent him from fulfilling his destiny as a leader of the resistance, so machines can take over the world.

Connor will team up with his T-800 cyborg buddy from "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" -- played by Arnold Schwarzenegger -- to take down the latest thing in cyborgs, the T-X, played by Norwegian actress Kristanna Loken.

John Connor, you may recall, is the son of Sarah (Linda Hamilton) and Kyle (Michael Biehn), conceived in the first "Terminator" picture in 1984.

According to E!, producers have not ruled out the possibility that Hamilton might appear in "T3" -- perhaps in flashbacks. Schwarzenegger has said her character dies before the start of "T3."

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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