The producer of the Oscars says the Hollywood award show will go ahead as planned March 23, regardless of whether war breaks out in the Middle East. Some worry that world events will overshadow the celebration.
This is known as the silly season in Hollywood, when the business of making movies and running studios gives way to a round of parties and questions about the designer gowns the stars will wear to the Oscars.
But there is a serious note this year, spurred by a small number of Hollywood personalities who have spoken out about possible war in Iraq, most arguing against war without United Nations' backing. The question of Iraq came up again before the annual luncheon for Oscar nominees on Monday - what will happen if conflict breaks out? Will the show go on as usual?
It has been postponed several times in the past, for example, for the funeral of civil rights leader Martin Luther King in 1968, and again in 1981, after the failed assassination attempt on former President Reagan. More recently, television's Emmy awards were postponed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
But this year, says Gil Cates, who produces the Oscar telecast at Hollywood's Kodak Theater, neither the threat of war nor the threat of terrorism will postpone the film awards.
"Yes, I think the Oscars absolutely will go ahead on the 23rd, as scheduled," he said. "The Kodak is a very safe environment. I'm bringing my family there, and yeah, the show will go on."
The actor Daniel Day Lewis admitted to some discomfort at the thought of a Hollywood celebration if there is fighting elsewhere. The soft-spoken actor is competing for an Oscar for his leading role as the villainous Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York.
"It would seem obscene if we were kind of prancing up a red carpet grinning and waving and there are people dying somewhere in the world, and we as citizens of this county, in my case of England and Ireland, we're responsible for what's going on," he said. "I think it's going to be very, very difficult to find a way to do that."
Nicole Kidman, a best-actress nominee for her role as the writer Virginia Woolf in the film The Hours, says she is of two minds on the question of whether to celebrate in wartime.
"There are two arguments, aren't there, where they say you need to continue on with things and not be stopped, and then there's the other thing where you just say, of course, it would feel very strange to show up," she said.
Queen Latifah, a supporting-actress nominee for the musical Chicago, believes the Oscar show will lift the spirits of those whose family members are in the military.
"There are people here with family who have had to say goodbye, and possibly send their husbands and wives, their daughters and sons off into another country to perhaps lose their lives for this country," she said. "So do I think the Oscars are more important than those people's families? No, I don't. But at the same time, I know that we as Americans, we don't want to sit here and cry all day."
The musical Chicago is the film to beat this year, possibly, says its director, because it is escapist entertainment. The Screen Actors Guild honored two Chicago stars over the weekend, Renee Zellweger as best actress and Catherine Zeta-Jones as best supporting actress. The movie was also honored for its ensemble cast. Chicago director Rob Marshall earlier earned top honors from the Directors Guild, and says his film is successful partly because it's a musical.
"Part of it is probably where we are as a society right now, I would think. I mean, I certainly would like to go to the theater to be lifted at the moment. I think we all do," he said. "So even though Chicago is a cynical, dark satire, I do think there's a great deal of joy in the piece as well. It's funny, and musicals can lift you in ways that non-musicals can't."
If there is a war, some worry that Oscar presenters and winners will take advantage of the award show to express their views on the subject. Telecast producer Gil Cates says presenters promise to follow a script, but he won't stop the winners from speaking out, if they want to.
"It's their 45 seconds. I mean, I would prefer that they spent their time talking about the award that they've won; obviously," he said. "That's what we're doing. We're celebrating excellence. But if they want to say anything else, hey, it's their time and it's a free country."
Oscar officials note that the award show has weathered World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, without the conflicts causing postponements. They say that whatever happens in Iraq, the show will go on.