Sony's fumble is Streep's loss

Times Staff Writer

Meryl Streep has led a charmed Hollywood life. On Tuesday, her luck turned.

For the second year in a row, a studio wrongly submitted a favored supporting actress in the Screen Actors Guild awards lead actress category. This time, the error likely cost Streep one -- if not two -- SAG nominations.

Sony admitted Tuesday an unidentified employee wrongly placed Streep's name in SAG's best actress competition for what Sony always considered her supporting role as author Susan Orlean in "Adaptation." The studio discovered the error when the ballots were mailed last month.

Sony appealed to SAG to fix the mistake and put Streep in the proper supporting actress category, even volunteering to pay to print and mail corrected ballots. SAG declined, worried it would set a bad precedent.

"It was an unfortunate mistake," Sony spokesman Steve Elzer said. "But it should not take anything away from her remarkable performance in the film."

For the 2002 awards, Universal accidentally put Jennifer Connelly in SAG's lead actress category for her supporting work in "A Beautiful Mind." Connelly was still nominated by SAG as a lead actress, although she lost to Halle Berry for "Monster's Ball." Connelly won not only the Golden Globe but also the Academy Award in the correct category, as best supporting actress.

Being submitted in the wrong category may have cost Streep more than an "Adaptation" nomination. Paramount also listed the actress in the best actress category, for her role as a woman throwing a party for a dying friend in "The Hours." As SAG voters looked at their awards ballots, they saw that Streep was essentially competing against herself, with her name put forward for both "The Hours" and "Adaptation." She was not nominated for best actress for either film, and Paramount and Sony both said Tuesday that vote-splitting was the probable culprit.

"It's possible that's what happened," Streep's publicist, Lois Smith, said.

Earlier this month, Streep won the Golden Globe award for best supporting actress for "Adaptation." She was also a Golden Globe nominee for best dramatic actress for "The Hours," losing to co-star Nicole Kidman.

Streep is considered a strong Oscar contender in both the lead actress and supporting actress categories. The Oscar ballots are due today at 5 p.m. and the SAG foul-up could possibly hurt her chances for both awards. One beneficiary of Sony's mistake is Kidman, who no longer must face Streep for SAG's best actress prize.

The SAG mistake highlights the significance of selecting the right awards category.

Just as lawyers shop for the most favorable courtroom venue, studios seek to place their films and actors where they might enjoy the best odds. In a year in which several of the most critically acclaimed movies are anchored by ensembles, such choices can have repercussions.

Unlike the Academy Awards, where the voters decide in which category nominees belong, the SAG awards defer to the studios. The Golden Globes, on the other hand, negotiate with the studios over the proper category, and occasionally veto a studio's preference.

Last year, New Line Cinema submitted "About Schmidt" as a comedy, but members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. said it should be in the Golden Globe drama category and switched it. Miramax submitted Catherine Zeta-Jones as best supporting actress for "Chicago," and the HFPA moved her to lead actress. Paramount submitted Julianne Moore as best supporting actress for "The Hours," but like Zeta-Jones, she was also moved into the lead actress category.

Two years ago, Benicio Del Toro, who won the Golden Globe and the Oscar for best supporting actor for "Traffic," also found himself competing in the outstanding actor category in the SAG awards for the Steven Soderbergh film. Del Toro ended up winning the SAG award over Tom Hanks for "Cast Away" and Russell Crowe for "Gladiator."


SAG nominees

For the full list, see Page 4

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