Academy says show will go on

Times Staff Writer

With war in the Middle East still raging, key executives behind Sunday's Academy Awards vowed Friday to press forward with the ceremony but acknowledged that events overseas were changing almost hourly and that the ABC television network could preempt the telecast.

With gigantic gold-painted replicas of Oscar being hoisted into place outside the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, told a huge crush of reporters at a street-level news conference on Hollywood Boulevard:

"We are in a time of crisis and uncertainty and the question arises: Will the show go on? And the answer is yes.

"At a time when American culture and values are under attack all over the world, we think it is more important than ever that we honor those achievements that reflect us and America at our event. We have done so throughout World War II, through the Korean War, the Vietnam War and through the disturbances of the '60s and the '70s."

Despite these assurances, it was clear that the academy and the producers of the show were sailing in uncharted waters.

Referring to President Bush's handling of the war, Pierson said he and his colleagues too want to keep their options open.

"We're in touch with [ABC] on a daily, almost an hourly, basis, to discuss with them what they want to do," Pierson said. "... It may be that they would be cutting into the show. It's perfectly possible they may actually preempt it if something extraordinary is going on."

There have been rumors that the show could see many stars bailing out at the last minute, either because of security concerns or because they deem it inappropriate given the gravity of events in Iraq.

Oscar show organizers said that to their knowledge, the only major figures to have dropped out so far are actors Will Smith and Jim Carrey, and Peter Jackson, the director of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," who expressed anxiety that he would not be able to return to his native New Zealand in time for editing another film.

Louis J. Horvitz, the director of Sunday's telecast, said everyone involved was engaged in rehearsals and it was " business as usual."

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