With all the acclaimed warbling in Baz Luhrmann’s ”Moulin Rouge,” the film would seem a shoo-in for a Best Song nod at the Oscar ceremony in March. So how come members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences won’t find the film’s one original tune, ”Come What May,” on their 2001 ballots?
The duet, written by David Baerwald — whose credits include cowriting songs recorded by Sheryl Crow (”All I Wanna Do,” ”Leaving Las Vegas”) and Luciano Pavarotti (”Run Baby Run”) — was initially intended for another Luhrmann film, 1996’s ”William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.” Though it didn’t make that movie, its secondhand status bumps it from this year’s competition. ”The song has to be original to the film. That’s a slam-dunk,” states Academy spokesperson John Pavlik, who adds that ”Moulin Rouge”’s studio, 20th Century Fox, never pushed the Academy to consider ”Come What May” for Oscar consideration.
”I don’t blame the Oscars because it’s just a technical thing,” says Luhrmann of his unlucky break. ”But it is sad. I think there’s a sense of apology about the decision, because Oscar representatives had been talking about how much they wanted Ewan [McGregor] and Nicole [Kidman] singing on the show.” As for the stars, the director says they had both expressed interest in performing the duet.
Though he’s resigned to the decision, Luhrmann hopes the Academy will consider revising the rule in the future. ”It’s based on a recent notion of music being used in the background or as part of a credit roll,” he says of the rule. Well, not exactly. According to the Academy, the rule demanding that Best Song nominees be written specifically for the films in which they’re featured has remained unchanged since 1934. ”The music branch of the Academy is the most religious about making sure rules apply to what’s going on in the industry. There are changes every year, but it’s still Best Original Song,” says Pavlik. ”I wouldn’t expect any changes on that line.”