On Woody and Terrence, Oscar's inevitable no-shows

Posted by · 5:29 pm · January 28th, 2012

The DGA Awards will be going down tonight, and the smart money remains on Michel Hazanavicius. But speaking of directors, I hadn’t quite taken note yet of the fact that two of the Academy’s nominees in the field are inevitable no-shows for the event. Stu VanAirsdale is way ahead of me, but let me add a few nuggets.

Woody Allen, of course, has only attended the Oscars once. It was a surprise appearance six months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when the writer/director came out to introduce a Nora Ephron-directed package of clips featuring New York cinema in a show of solidarity for the city.

My colleague Steve Pond tells the story of being backstage and seeing “Nora Ephron” on the rundown, a placeholder for someone, but for whom, no one knew. It wasn’t until Allen walked by decked out in his tux that everyone suddenly went, “Oh, shit.”

Indeed; Allen’s harsh words about the ceremony from his earliest days are evergreen. “I have no regard for that kind of ceremony,” he said in 1978, after having won Best Picture and Best Director for “Annie Hall,” interestingly enough. “I just don’t think they know what they’re doing. When you see who wins those things — or who doesn’t win them — you can see how meaningless this Oscar thing is.”

But it’s not just that Allen balks at the idea of competition in the arts. He has also consistently turned down the Academy’s invitation to him to join their ranks. It’s a bit of the old Groucho Marx, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member,” but Allen also just clearly doesn’t believe in the mission of the Academy, at least as it pertains to getting together and patting each other on the back.

So yes, his popping up on the March 2002 telecast was a pretty big deal. But it was a fleeting deal. In fact, he was already ripping his bow tie off as he walked off the stage, hence the backstage press photo above.

Malick, meanwhile, has never once attended the ceremony. He’s only been nominated one time prior to this year, of course, but his reclusive ways in the media department have naturally stretched to this and any other awards show. However, there’s an interesting history behind the year he almost did attend.

Prior to the release of “The Thin Red Line” in 1998, producers Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau allegedly violated a confidentiality clause they had signed by giving an interview to Vanity Fair about their tumultuous relationship with Malick during the making of the film.

This didn’t go over well with the director, nor with 20th Century Fox or Phoenix Pictures. In order to keep their credit on the film, Geisler and Roberdeau had to agree to not attend the Oscars in the event the film was nominated for anything.

Well, they decided to go anyway, and Malick stated that he wouldn’t attend if they were there. And the Academy appeared to take Malick’s side, as Geisler and Roberdeau were seated in the middle of a row, 16 rows back from the other nominees for the film.

The two producers opted out of attending in the end, as did Malick. It’s probably a good thing, since the film went home empty-handed. “Shakespeare in Love” and “Saving Private Ryan” were all but set to dominate the entire telecast as it was, and the one category in which “The Thin Red Line” had a shot — Best Adapted Screenplay — Bill Condon ended up winning for “Gods and Monsters,” a total surprise (and one for Condon, too, judging by his reaction upon hearing his name called).

As always, fingers are crossed that Allen and/or Malick decide to show up after all. Malick did attend the premiere of “The Tree of Life” at Cannes, even if he didn’t show up to accept the Palme d’Or. We can always hope. But you know what they say about old people being stuck in their ways.

Here is Allen’s one and only appearance on the Oscars from a decade (wow) ago:

Meanwhile, since this is interesting and relevant to the season as well as the topic at hand, here is “Beginners” star Christopher Plummer at a Newsweek round table being quite candid about working with Malick. I cracked up at how Clooney jumps in to pounce, too. Yes, George, we know you were in the movie. Barely:

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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