LOS ANGELES, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Gilbert Cates, who has produced more Oscar telecasts than anyone else, extends his record to 11 Academy Awards shows with the upcoming 75th anniversary edition.
Cates and his Oscars telecast production teams have some hardware to show for their efforts -- 18 Emmy Awards, with 76 Emmy nominations overall. Cates has been nominated five times for a producing Emmy for the Oscars show, winning in 1991.
This year's telecast has a hard act to follow, given the emotional impact of the 74th annual Academy Awards -- the first Oscar show after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The telecast featured a moving film tribute to New York and an unprecedented Academy Awards show appearance by Woody Allen, as well as Honorary Oscars for Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford and Arthur Hiller. It also featured the historic presentation of the Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars to two black performers, Denzel Washington and Halle Berry.
This year, as Cates and his production staff prepare the telecast, the nation is anxious about the prospect of war in Iraq and the effects of a continuing economic slump. In an interview with United Press International, Cates said he expected the telecast to reflect the times in which it is being presented, but it is too soon to know just how.
"The show itself really reflects the year it's being done in," he said. "If you were doing a treatise or a report on America at any given time, it would be interesting to watch the Academy Awards show from that year. You would get a sense of where the country is."
In the end, though, Cates said the purpose of the Academy Awards is to celebrate quality filmmaking.
"The soul of the show is excellence in filmmaking," he said. "And then the second part of it is the excellence filtered through the year 2002. We don't know where America's going to be -- at war, preparing for war, or maybe the issue will be resolved. It's an unfolding story. There's no way of knowing where we're going to be at that time."
Cates said the theme of this year's show will be the 75th anniversary of the Academy Awards. But he knows from experience that -- planned or not -- security concerns and foreign policy concerns will almost certainly find some expression on the telecast.
"I think that happens quite without anybody doing anything," he said. "It's in the air."
The telecast could feature a powerful line-up of musicians performing their Oscar-nominated songs -- possibly including Eminem, for "Lose Yourself" from "8 Mile."
"What we do is we invite each of the artists who performed the songs in the films to do the song on the Academy Awards show," said Cates. "Eminem has been invited along with everyone else. I haven't heard yet whether his schedule will permit him to do so. I expect to find out next week."
Paul Simon and U2 have also been invited. Simon wrote "Father and Daughter" for "The Wild Thornberrys Movie" and U2 wrote "The Hands That Built America" for "Gangs of New York." The other nominated songs are "Burn It Blue" from "Frida" by Elliot Goldenthal and Julie Taymor, and "I Move On" from "Chicago" by John Kander and Fred Ebb.
In recent years, it has been common sport in Hollywood to bash the quality of Hollywood movies from the preceding year. Cates has noticed that there hasn't been that kind of talk this year.
"I have, and I think that is in large measure dictated and shown by the five best picture nominees," he said. "'Chicago,' the renaissance of the movie musical, that's kind of great. 'Gangs of New York,' the operatic treatment of early New York City. 'The Hours' -- an amazing book made into an amazing film. 'The Pianist' is extraordinary, breathtaking. 'The Lord of the Rings' is about as popular a movie as you can make. You'd be hard-pressed to say Hollywood is not making the kinds of movies they used to make."
There has been some question whether Peter O'Toole will come to Hollywood to receive an Honorary Oscar, but Cates said O'Toole will be definitely there.
"As definitely as you can make these plans," he said.
He also said O'Toole's tribute will be the only Honorary Oscar presented this year.
The telecast's running time is always an issue, and Cates said he is determined to wrap the show before midnight EST. Academy President Frank Pierson has pledged to do just that, and Cates said he will make it happen.
"Let the clocks begin," he said.
Still, Cates left a little wiggle room in case the show does run long.
"There's a lot of it that's just totally beyond our control," he said. "I've always thought of it as a baseball game. If it's short and boring, that's no good. If it's long and it's wonderful, that's great."
The 75th anniversary Academy Awards will be presented on March 23 at the Kodak theater in Hollywood, in ceremonies to be televised by ABC.