Oscar campaign rules need sharper focus

Rick Sands is chief operating officer of Miramax Film Corp., which co-financed and released "Gangs of New York."

It is confusing that Robert Wise has been singled out for defending Marty Scorsese in response to William Goldman’s appeal in Variety to members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences not to vote for director Martin Scorsese or “Gangs of New York” (“A Rumble Over ‘Gangs’ Oscar Ad,” by John Horn, March 14).

There has been no criticism from the academy or its members of Goldman, or of the significant number of Hollywood luminaries (who are academy members) who have previously endorsed Oscar nominees during awards season. Examples include: Julia Roberts ( Denzel Washington), Warren Beatty (Halle Barry last year and “The Pianist” this year), Elizabeth Taylor (“The Pianist”), Steven Spielberg (Scorsese) and Francis Ford Coppola (Diane Lane).

If Wise’s endorsement of Scorsese was seen by the academy as improperly revealing his vote, it is unclear how any and all endorsements do not do so.

There is confusion about what is considered appropriate even within the academy. Two years ago, one prominent academy board member hosted a screening/reception of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and another top academy executive co-hosted a party for “Y Tu Mama Tambien” a few months ago.


Last year, industry endorsements from Wise and several other academy members figured prominently in both trade and commercial newspaper ads for “Moulin Rouge.” At the time, there was no indication that this was a violation of academy rules, nor were there any complaints.

Clearly, it is in no one’s interest to offend even one academy member, and when we realized, almost immediately, that this ad had that effect, we voluntarily discontinued it. We received no calls from the academy asking us to do so.

Given the fact that there is quite a bit of confusion over this matter, we welcome academy President Frank Pierson’s suggestion that it is time for constructive conversations about campaigning in general between the studios and the academy so we can all maintain the great spirit and passion of the Oscars.