"Hurt Locker" Producer Barred from Oscars

(Left to right) BRIAN GERAGHTY and GUY PEARCE star in THE HURT LOCKER. Photo: Jonathan Olley Summit Entertainment

A producer of the Iraq war story "The Hurt Locker" will not be allowed to attend Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony because of e-mails he sent urging academy members to vote for his movie, Oscar overseers said Tuesday.

But Nicolas Chartier will receive an Oscar at a later date if "The Hurt Locker" wins best picture.

The executive committee of the producers branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences imposed the penalty on Chartier, who violated Oscar rules that prohibit mailings promoting a film and disparaging another.

Chartier sent an e-mail Feb. 19 to some academy members asking for their support for "The Hurt Locker," "not a "$500 million film" - an obvious reference to blockbuster best-picture contender "Avatar."

Subsequent e-mails, posted by the Los Angeles Times, showed Chartier asking Oscar voters to rank "The Hurt Locker" at No. 1 and "Avatar" at No. 10 among this year's expanded best-picture lineup of 10 films.

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Chartier apologized in a subsequent e-mail. "My naivete, ignorance of the rules and plain stupidity as a first-time nominee is not an excuse for this behavior and I strongly regret it," Chartier wrote.

He did not immediately return a call Tuesday from The Associated Press seeking comment on the academy's penalty. Officials at Summit Entertainment, which released "The Hurt Locker," declined to comment.

"Avatar" producer Jon Landau did not immediately return a call for comment.

"The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar" have been at the head of the pack throughout awards season, and they lead the Oscar field with nine nominations each.

"Avatar" won the Golden Globe for best drama, but "The Hurt Locker" has dominated honors from critics and key Hollywood trade groups, including guilds representing directors, writers and producers.

At last month's British Academy Film Awards, "The Hurt Locker" also won out over "Avatar," taking six prizes, including best picture.

Chartier is one of four producers listed on the film's best-picture nomination, along with "Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow, screenwriter Mark Boal and Greg Shapiro. Bigelow and "Avatar" director James Cameron were married from 1989 to 1991.

The penalty against Chartier does not affect the other three producers, who are free to attend the Oscars.

The academy announced its sanction against Chartier as Oscar balloting closed Tuesday. The producers branch stopped short of the harsher penalty of rescinding Chartier's nomination, which would have kept him from receiving an Oscar statuette if his film won.

Oscar rivalry is fierce, with filmmakers and distributors coveting awards wins both for bragging rights and for the bounce in box-office or DVD revenues an Oscar triumph brings.

The academy keeps a tight rein on awards campaigning, its rules prohibiting "casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film."

"You would hope it wouldn't have happened," said Tom Sherak, academy president. "It will not cloud what the night is. This was an individual thing that happened. It's been dealt with, and now we're going on to the show."
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