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Bob Yari doesn’t regret Oscar credits battle

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When the Academy Awards are handed out Sunday night in Hollywood, Bob Yari will be watching the star-studded show like millions of other movie buffs around the world.

“I love watching great films get their due,” Yari said.

But so much has changed for Yari since 2006, when “Crash,” a film about race relations in Los Angeles that his company financed, won the Oscar for best picture.

Yari was not allowed to step on stage at the Kodak Theater and receive a golden statuette because the Producers Guild of America had earlier determined he was ineligible. At the time, the guild had been waging a very public campaign to rein in the explosion of producer credits on films. Yari sued after the guild and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named only two people as producers for purposes of Oscar credit.

Yari believed the guild’s arbitration process was unfair because the unnamed arbitrators met behind closed doors and did not give producers a chance to ask or answer questions face to face. The guild argued that the suit was “bogus” because people would be afraid to step forward and tell the truth if they knew the arbitration hearings would not be confidential.

The lawsuit was eventually tossed out of court by a Superior Court judge, but Yari still feels he fought the good fight.

“When I initiated the litigation, the attempt was not to get an Oscar,” Yari told HollywoodNews.com. “That was a foregone conclusion. The litigation was actually to force the Academy and the Producers Guild to adopt a standard of due process which they didn’t use with me.”

When “Crash,” an ensemble film that explored race relations in Los Angeles, won best picture, co-writer and director Paul Haggis and credited producer Cathy Schulman accepted the statuettes.

Yari took heat around Hollywood from waging a legal battle against the Academy and the guild. Some thought he should have quietly accepted the guild’s decision. Yari disagrees.

“Even though I paid a price,” he said, “I think it had a positive effect. At least if the courts weren’t going to force these institutions to adopt a more open and fair policy, they are looking at it now like ‘We better…(or face) potential repercussions’ not only of more lawsuits but because of a ‘backlash’ from their own constituencies.”

“I think what we did had some effect on the behavior of he guild especially not being so capricious and footloose,” Yari said.

This year, the Academy took the extraordinary step of allowing four producers among the seven listed in the credits for “The Hurt Locker” to be officially recognized as nominees for the best film Oscar. Earlier this week, the Academy announced it would not allow one of those four producers to attend Sunday’s Academy Awards because of e-mails he sent urging Oscar voters to cast their ballots for his movie. But Nicolas Chartier will receive an Oscar at a later date if the film wins best picture.

As for Yari, before the legal fight over the Oscar credits, Yari’s company was expanding. “We had become a domestic distributor,” he recalled. “We had distributed 13 films, including ‘The Illusionist,’ which grossed $40 million.”

But the economic downturn hurt his company, Yari Film Group.

“When the (economic) crash hit, we got caught with our pants down,” Yari said. “We had six films up for release. Some had trailers in theaters. The (prints and advertising) money disappeared overnight. That just caused a domino effect. It put our company in a really bad position. We did what we had to do.”

Yari’s company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. court.

“I think we are going to reorganize,” Yari said this week. “We’re not going to be a domestic distributor. Hopefully, we’ll put out some good films.”

He said his company currently is in post-production on a documentary film about the rock band The Police. “We are starting work on other films,” he added. “We are working on scripts and casting them.”

Would he do anything different knowing now what happened when he took on the guild and the Academy over the Oscar credits to “Crash”?

“I knew someone taking that position is going to be persona non grata for awhile,” he said, “but I felt strongly that if I don’t do it, who else will do it? Nowhere in the complaint did it ever ask for an Oscar or demand that the Academy issue an Oscar retroactively,” he stressed. “The complaint wasn’t about the film, ‘Crash.’ It was about future films.”

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.

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One Comment

  • March 5, 2010 | Permalink |

    I think he had every right to fight for his rights…and I think it did help for the decision to include more of the Hurt Locker producers in this year’s Oscar race

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