‘Sunshine,’ but still a dark cloud

Times Staff Writer

THE good news for the producers of “Little Miss Sunshine”: With its Golden Globe nomination for best comedy, the movie’s Oscar chances keep building. The bad news: At least two of its producers can’t enjoy any Academy Awards glory. And in the no-news-yet department: “The Departed’s” four producers are still awaiting their fate.

In a confidential arbitration decision, the Producers Guild of America has determined that all five of “Little Miss Sunshine’s” credited producers actually deserve their credits. But an Oscar rule stipulates that only three producers can be nominated for best picture, meaning the academy must lop off some names if, as many prognosticators believe, the film is singled out when Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 23.

“It’s an interesting situation, and I wish it weren’t,” said Bruce Davis, the executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The credit wars began after “Shakespeare in Love’s” best picture triumph. When the 1998 film won the Oscar, five producers rushed the stage to collect statuettes. The academy decided to cap the eligible producers at three and in 2005 asked the guild to help make the decision.


As part of its “truth in credits” initiative, the guild asks producers to submit evidence outlining their role in a project’s development, production, post-production and marketing. Because producer credits are often granted through contractual promises and not actual work, the PGA frequently cuts the list. Of the six producers whose names appeared on “Crash,” the guild determined only two were entitled to the credit (Bob Yari, a producer cut from the film, sued the guild and the academy; the suit is pending). The guild also trimmed producers from “The Aviator” and “Munich.”

For the PGA, which hands out its own award for best picture, there is no numeric cap.

After reviewing declarations and supporting documents submitted by “Sunshine’s” Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, David T. Friendly, Marc Turtletaub and Peter Saraf, a PGA arbitration committee decided in late November that all five rightfully deserved their producer credits.

The guild is determining whether all four producers on “The Departed” -- Brad Pitt, Brad Grey, Graham King and Martin Scorsese -- are eligible.


Davis says the academy will take no further “Little Miss Sunshine” action until after the nominations are announced. If the film makes the shortlist for best picture, the 25-member executive committee of the academy’s producer branch will reconsider the issue.

“The two organizations have obviously come up with different rules,” Davis said. “They have the luxury to say, ‘Each of these people made a significant contribution to the making of this picture.’ We have to get down to the people who made the greatest contribution to making the movie.”

The guild declined to discuss the situation, as did “Little Miss Sunshine’s” five producers. But Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the film’s directors, said they were troubled by the potential thinning of their ranks.

“It’s really a shame,” Faris said. Added Dayton: “I appreciate the interest in stopping credits that are not deserved. They have recognized an issue, but I don’t think the solution is there yet. [All five] are legitimately producers of the film.”