Actors' antiwar statements expected as Oscars loom

LOS ANGELES: With the Academy Awards and a war with Iraq both looming on the horizon, Hollywood's PR machine and the entertainment media are struggling to balance fashion coverage with inevitable political questions for celebrities.

LOS ANGELES: With the Academy Awards and a war with Iraq both looming on the horizon, Hollywood's PR machine and the entertainment media are struggling to balance fashion coverage with inevitable political questions for celebrities.

Already, a number of Hollywood's elite have made their antiwar views known at the awards events leading up to the Oscars. At the Writers Guild of America Awards last week, director Michael Moore told an enthusiastic crowd, "What I see is a country that does not like what's going on. Let's all commit to Bush removal in 2004."

Actors such as Edward Norton, Dustin Hoffman, George Clooney, and Jessica Lange have also been vocal critics of US policy in the media, giving entertainment reporters a new line of questioning. While some publicists privately said that they'd prefer clients stick to entertainment topics, most agree that stars have a right to speak their minds. Some are simply advising clients to frame their views as anti-policy rather than anything that could be perceived as not supporting troops already deployed to overseas locations.

"Hollywood must get over itself," said publicist Michael Levine. "It's got to make peace with the fact that a lot of their comments are regarded as beyond rubbish, even traitorous to the vast majority of the country."

Academy Awards executive producer Gil Cates has repeatedly said he isn't asking winners to refrain from political comments - but only to keep it within the 45-second acceptance-speech window. Cates, however, has also said that presenters have been asked not to change scripts to insert personal views, giving rise to media suspicions of an unofficial "blacklist" for potential problematic presenters.

For stars not willing to put their words on record, activist organization Global Vision For Peace is distributing 18-karat gold "peace pins" modeled after Pablo Picasso's Dove of Peace. Antiwar celebrities such as Meryl Streep are expected to sport the pins on the red carpet.

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