The Golden Globe Awards are a highly rated NBC event, an often irreverent ceremony brimming with A-list stars. If the Writers Guild of America strike against the TV networks and movie studios isn't resolved, the WGA could picket the Jan. 13 show, potentially resulting in a ceremony with all the celebrity clout of a charity bowling tournament.
While not considered remotely as prestigious as the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes can predict which films possess Oscar momentum. (Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. voters narrowly made "Atonement" a favorite Thursday, with seven nominations.) This year the Globes could also be a harbinger of how the labor dispute will affect prime-time specials -- with ABC's Oscars next in the cross hairs.
Several Globe nominees expressed reservations about crossing picket lines to attend the show, with a handful saying they wouldn't consider being disloyal to the WGA.
"If actors can't have solidarity with writers -- the people who put the words in their mouths -- then who can they have solidarity with?" said Tom Wilkinson, nominated for supporting actor for "Michael Clayton."
WGA member Aaron Sorkin, nominated for writing "Charlie Wilson's War," said he wouldn't cross, and Marc Forster, the director of foreign-language film nominee "The Kite Runner," said he wouldn't either.
"It's important to respect the writers," Forster said.
James McAvoy, nominated for dramatic actor for "Atonement," agreed: "I wouldn't want to go against people standing up for what they believe in."
Others said they were inclined to attend, even if pickets surrounded the Beverly Hilton Hotel. "I think the foreign press is very respectful of the negotiation process," said John Travolta, a best comedy or musical actor for "Hairspray."
As Katie Jacobs, executive producer of "House," nominated for dramatic TV series, put it: "If ever there was a time for celebration, this is it. . . . I just hope there isn't going to be a problem. If anybody gets in the way of me buying a beautiful new dress, I don't know what I'll do."
Organizers are hoping the WGA will grant the foreign press association a waiver for the Globes show, which would permit WGA writing. Earlier this month, the guild granted one-night waivers to Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones for an AIDS fundraiser and for the Kennedy Center Honors, which CBS will broadcast Dec. 26. This week, the WGA granted a waiver to its sister union, the Screen Actors Guild, for its award show.
Without a waiver, the Globes would be treated as any other "struck company," and any members working on it would be considered to be crossing the line, a WGA spokesman said.
"It really hadn't occurred to me that that would be an issue until this morning," said Ryan Gosling, nominated for comedy actor for "Lars and the Real Girl." "It weighs heavily on me, and it's something I don't take lightly and will not take lightly."
Songwriter Carole Bayer Sager, nominated for collaborating with Clint Eastwood on the song "Grace Is Gone" from the movie of the same name, is in an unusual position. She is married to former Warner Bros. Chairman Bob Daly, once a powerful voice within the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the bargaining entity for the TV networks and movie studios.
Sager said she would cross a Golden Globe picket line.
"I don't think I would be crossing a boundary. I'm a songwriter, I think I'm OK in going," she said.
The Golden Globes and the Oscars wouldn't be the first shows to have celebrity turnout squelched by a labor dispute. In 1980, in the middle of a strike by the Screen Actors Guild, Powers Boothe was the only actor to show up to collect his Emmy Award, winning for "Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones."
During the WGA's 1985 strike, the guild granted a waiver allowing "MASH" writer Larry Gelbart to work on that year's Oscar ceremony. But Gelbart's waiver was condemned by some fellow guild members, and Gelbart promptly quit working on the award ceremony. The show's script ultimately was written by management of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which later admitted its banter was terrible.
The Golden Globes are not as heavily scripted as the Oscars, particularly because there is no host. Without a WGA waiver, it will consist of little more than presenters opening envelopes.
Jorge Camara, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., said he was planning as if the waiver would be granted.
"We are really not looking at any other option," he said. Camara expressed hope that the ceremony would offer a rare break from strike-related acrimony. "The Golden Globes are an awards show that brings the industry together," he said.
The WGA has no jurisdiction over the acceptance speeches given by award winners, so even if the WGA decides not to grant a waiver for the Golden Globes, expect as many endless thank-yous read from a crumpled napkin as ever.
Times staff writers Geoff Boucher, Maria Elena Fernandez, Martin Miller, Robert W. Welkos, Chris Lee, Gina Piccalo and Rachel Abramowitz contributed to this report.
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