Oscars 2012: How will ‘Tree of Life’ be represented?


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When Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” was announced as a surprise Oscar best picture choice Tuesday, it resolved one question about this year’s telecast: One of the most audacious and polarizing movies will indeed have a spot at the Kodak Theatre.

But it raises another one — namely, who exactly will be on hand to represent the film. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it had yet to determine which producers would be eligible for the best picture prize.


According to the organization’s rules, only three can be nominated for best picture, a rule designed to stop a cavalcade of producers all trying to grab a little credit. The academy could make an exception — according to one clause, “The committee has the right, in what it determines to be a rare and extraordinary circumstance, to name any additional qualified producer as a nominee.”

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If it keeps at the usual three, it’s likely that Bill Pohlad and Sarah Green will be two of the producers. Pohlad, who financed the film, had been developing it with Malick for about a decade, while Green is Malick’s longtime producer and close confidant.

The third slot could go to one of three people — Grant Hill, a producer who was involved with it early on; Brad Pitt, who came on to produce and then star; or Dede Gardner, Pitt’s producing partner.

Asked how it would resolved itself, Pitt said, “I’m going to defer to Dede on this one.”

Of course, it’s the academy’s opinion that matters in the end. The group has been asking producers about the relative levels of involvement, said Pohlad, and should rule shortly on whether Pitt, who also produced “Moneyball,” will get a best picture nomination. If he did, he’d actually be put in the rare position of competing against himself in the category. (“Pancakes for everybody,” Pitt quipped when asked what that scenario would mean.)


Finally, there’s the question of Malick himself. The filmmaker, who was nominated for director Tuesday, sat out the 1999 ceremony when his “The Thin Red Line” was nominated for best picture and even asked producers to do the same. This time, Pohlad said, there could be a change — maybe.

‘I’m hesitant to push Terry to do something he doesn’t like doing, but I also want him to enjoy it,’ Pohlad said, adding that Malick did sound genuinely happy about the nomination when the two spoke this morning. The produced added, ‘Sometimes, its frustrating how removed from it he tries to keep it, but it comes from a real place. He’s tried to do something original and adventurous and he wants the focus to be on that.’


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-- Steven Zeitchik, with reporting by John Horn