Here's the latest in Oscar spin campaigns. ''Beautiful Mind'' subject John Nash will defend the movie on ''60 Minutes,'' while Miramax hopes to boost ''Amelie'' by expanding the voter pool

By Gary Susman
Updated March 18, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
Ron Howard, Russell Crowe, ...
Credit: A Beautiful Mind: Eli Reed

As the Oscar race comes down to the wire — ballots are due at the Academy on March 19, to be counted for the ceremony five days later — supporters of two movies are going to great lengths to stump for their films. In a rare interview, John Forbes Nash will defend ”A Beautiful Mind,” the Best Picture nominee that takes broad liberties with his life story, on ”60 Minutes” this Sunday, March 17. And in the foreign film category, Miramax has proposed more theatrical screenings of the five nominated films, a move rival studios seem to see as an attempt to boost Miramax’s ”Amélie” at the other movies’ expense.

Nash, 72, is the Princeton mathematician (played in the movie by Oscar nominee Russell Crowe) who emerged from decades of schizophrenia to return to his field and win the Nobel prize. Neither he nor his wife, Alicia (played in the film by nominee Jennifer Connelly), have gone on record before about the movie, but Crowe, Connelly, and nominated director Ron Howard have all said they sought and received the Nashes’ approval.

Over the past week, Crowe, Howard, Universal chief Stacey Snider, and biographer Sylvia Nasar have complained that recent media reports noting the movie’s omission of some of the more controversial details of Nash’s life — the abandoned mistress who bore him a son out of wedlock, or anti-Semitic remarks Nash made at the height of his psychosis — are unjustly smearing both Nash and the movie by taking those details out of context. Snider, Howard, and Crowe have all speculated that rival studios may have planted these stories. (Read’s coverage of the ”Mind” flap here.)

”60 Minutes” spokesman Kevin Tedesco says Mike Wallace approached Nash with an interview request two months ago, before the current wave of negative press but after the first wave of articles appeared noting that the thornier aspects of Nash’s life — in particular, his alleged bisexuality — were absent from the movie. Tedesco wouldn’t speculate as to why Nash said yes now, but a CBS statement says both John and Alicia Nash plan to address ”their lifelong struggles, their thoughts on the film, and the controversy it has raised.”

Meanwhile, the latest Miramax gambit seems innocuous enough: an open letter to the studios behind the four other foreign film nominees, asking them to chip in to rent a theater in Los Angeles this weekend and have rotating screenings for Academy members of all five films. Foreign film is one of the few Oscar categories where only those who’ve seen the five nominees on the big screen, not just on video, can vote. In addition to two Academy-sponsored L.A. screenings of each movie, Miramax’s ”Amélie” (from France) and United Artists’ ”No Man’s Land” (from Bosnia) have been enjoying a regular theatrical run for at least three months. But the studios behind the three films that haven’t gone into wide release yet, First Look (Norway’s ”Elling”) and Sony Pictures Classics (India’s ”Lagaan” and Argentina’s ”Son of the Bride”), are hosting only two or three additional screenings of their movies during the voting period. So Miramax’s proposed extra screenings would benefit everyone and make the voting more democratic, right?

That’s not how the other studios see it. The theory is, bringing in more voters from the Academy’s mainstream will help only ”Amélie,” the most accessible of the nominees, while the others would have a better chance if the pool were restricted to only those serious foreign-film fans who’ve already made the effort to see them. So far, none of the other studios has agreed to the proposal. ”We don’t want to be part of Miramax’s Academy campaign,” one rival executive told Variety. ”Everybody’s following the [Academy] rules as written, and the voters have had more exposure to the nominees than ever before.”

Still, Miramax executive vice president of worldwide publicity Amanda Lundberg, who wrote the open letter, told Variety. ”We’re trying to be magnanimous. So many Academy members don’t even know that they can vote on this. We think it’s everybody’s responsibility to open this up for as many Academy voters as possible.” She added that she’ll make a similar proposal next year.

That’s just great. This year’s bitterly fought Oscar campaign isn’t even over yet, and already, someone’s planning next year’s.

RELATED SITES: Vote in Moviefone’s American Moviegoer Awards or get additional coverage on Netscape’s Oscar page

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