"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri": October Oscar predictions                "Get Out" leads the Gotham Award nominations                'Blade Runner 2049,' 'The Disaster Artist' to be Honored at Hollywood Film Awards                Hollywood Contenders – Looking at Best Original Screenplay hopefuls                Todd Haynes explores the world of children with "Wonderstruck"                MUDBOUND and COCO to be Honored at Hollywood Film Awards                "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" pairs Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman once again                "Wonder Wheel" closes NYFF with a commanding Kate Winslet turn                Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney to Receive Hollywood Supporting Actor and Hollywood Supporting Actress Awards at "Hollywood Film Awards"                Hollywood Contenders – Looking at Best Adapted Screenplay hopefuls                "Breathe" aims to return Andrew Garfield to Oscar contention                Mary J. Blige, Timothée Chalamet and the Cast of "I, Tonya" - Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Paul Walter Hauser to be honored at the 21st Annual "Hollywood Film Awards."                New Trailer drops for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"                "Goodbye Christopher Robin" reveals the origins of Winnie the Pooh                Hollywood Contenders – Looking at Best Supporting Actress hopefuls        

EXCLUSIVE: Academy Pres. Tom Sherak: First came the boo’s, now the applause

tom-sherak-academy

BY ROBERT W. WELKOS

Tom Sherak chuckles as he recalls the story.

One day last year, he walked into his favorite restaurant, The Palm, where he knows everyone and everyone knows him, and suddenly noticed his friends were booing him.

“What did you do?!” they exclaimed. “How could you do this?!” screamed a long-time pal and famous producer, who will go unnamed.

They were reacting to a controversial decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to scrap the decades-old practice of selecting five best picture nominees and go back to an earlier period when the Oscars listed 10 best picture nominees.

Fast-forward to last week and Sherak said he walked into the same restaurant only this time his friends applauded him.

They were responding to mostly favorable reviews after the list of 10 pictures was announced by Sherak and actress Anne Hathaway before a worldwide television audience.

Since being named president of the Academy in August, Sherak said he has learned one lesson: “I’ve learned that you need to be a good listener,” he said. “You listen to all the good stuff and the complaints.” It’s especially important to listen to the complaints, he added, “because you learn to make stuff even better.”

Sherak, a former partner at Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios and a one-time distribution chief at 20th Century Fox, said the expanded list of best picture nominees has had its desired effect: “Jack Black said to me, ‘Any publicity is good publicity.’ People are now debating (the best pictures). Is it good? Is it bad? Is it stupid? Is it crazy.”

Had the Academy not taken action, Sherak said, it risked becoming a “dinosaur.”

Sherak believes that boosting the Academy Awards TV ratings is vital if the Academy is to keep generating money from the show to pay for its various nonprofit film efforts.

“Ratings are always a concern,” he said. “Ratings are a big thing.” He noted that the night of the Oscars there are really two events taking place on the TV screen: the awards themselves, where the best filmmakers and actors are honored, and the Oscar show itself.

This year’s show, which airs March 7 on ABC, is being produced by Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic.

“They came up with a line which we put on our Oscar poster: ‘Expect the unexpected,'” Sherak said.

The show will be co-hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

Sherak said that unlike some past years, the Oscar campaigns being waged by the studios and independents seem less frenzied. In prior years, the Academy cracked down when it felt that marketing departments went too far in trying to woo Oscar voters with ornate mailings and dinners that were, in reality, like political campaign stops.

“I don’t think it’s as crazy this year,” Sherak said, noting that perhaps the studios are spending less on Oscar campaigns because of the current economic crunch.

He said one of the benefits of his new job is getting to announce the nominations alongside Hathaway, who he said is one of the nicest people he has ever met in Hollywood.

He noted that his grandkids watched “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend and saw their grandpa and Hathaway spoofed in a skit about the Oscar nominations. In the SNL skit, “Sherak” and “Hathaway” announced the 10 best picture nominees and then went far beyond that, also naming films like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” “Old Dogs,” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” among the year’s best pictures. Then things really got crazy when the SNL comedians named “Jersey Shore” as a best picture nominee.

“It’s so much fun for the grandchildren to look at this stuff,” said Sherak, unable to suppress his glee.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” he added.

Photo Credit: Reed Saxon

About Robert W. Welkos

Executive Editor: Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the entertainment industry for 15 years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. During this span, he wrote extensively about the movie industry from turmoil in the executive suites, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and box office hits and bombs to visits to movie sets as well as profiles of top stars and A-list directors, cutting edge features on the newest indie films and visits to famous film festivals like Sundance and Cannes. Prior to entertainment, Welkos worked as a reporter and assistant city editor in The Times’ Metro section where he undertook major investigations for the paper as well as covering breaking news and writing in-depth features. Before joining The Times, he worked for the Associated Press in Reno, Nevada, and City News Service in Los Angeles.

Follow us

Breaking Hollywood News   


UPDATES BY EMAIL

3 Comments

  • February 8, 2010 | Permalink |

    Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin? that’s going to be awkwardly interesting.

  • February 9, 2010 | Permalink |

    I so love Steve Martin, looking forward to that!

  • February 11, 2010 | Permalink |

    I enjoy reading your stuff, Robert. The only reason I read this website.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.