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Is Hollywood ready for black-tie picketing?

UnionsMovie IndustryCulture

Is Hollywood ready for black-tie picketing?

How about A-list writers such as J.J. Abrams and Judd Apatow in Armani tuxedos standing near the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards, where the limos enter the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the Golden Globe Awards?

That's the plan that Writers Guild President Patric M. Verrone mentioned at the membership meeting Monday night, according to people who were there.

By Tuesday morning, as the town processed the news that the guild had denied waivers to the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, a consensus was rapidly forming that the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. would probably be handing out awards themselves at the Jan. 13 event should the strike not be settled by then.

Without a waiver, the awards show would not be able to employ WGA writers and would be open to a boycott and picketing.

"We're all waiting to see if somehow they're going to reach a compromise or a solution," said Catherine Olim of the publicity powerhouse PMK/HBH, who represents such Globe nominees as Glenn Close. "I don't mean the writers and the [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] -- I mean the writers and the Golden Globes."

A prominent talent agent predicted that no actors would show up.

"There's no way any of them will be going," the agent said. "Anybody who does go will look like they're out for the publicity and not caring about what the writers -- and the actors who are allied with them -- are trying to achieve."

Writers Guild spokesman Gregg Mitchell said that "it is not in violation of strike rules to attend a show and do a press junket. That said, we leave it up to members to make personal decisions."

The Screen Actors Guild has yet to make a recommendation to its members.

It's unclear whether stars would boycott "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," which are scheduled to return to the air Jan. 2, without writers.

As guild members, Leno and O'Brien will be barred from writing their own monologues, though theoretically they could improvise. They could also rely more heavily on guest interviews.

CBS' David Letterman and Craig Ferguson are hoping to come back on the air the same night, but with their writers. Both shows are owned by Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants Inc., which said Saturday that it wanted to make an interim agreement with the WGA that would cover the writing staffs of the two programs.

The guild said over the weekend that it was interested in negotiating deals with individual studios, but the two sides have not begun discussions.

A spokeswoman for WGA East said the union's negotiating committee would take up the matter today.

One possible sticking point: CBS owns the digital rights to the Letterman and Ferguson shows, which could make it difficult for Worldwide Pants to meet the guild's terms.

"We are willing to agree to the writers' demands that are within our control, so we have no reason to believe that an interim agreement can't be achieved with the WGA," Rob Burnett, chief executive of Worldwide Pants, said in a statement Tuesday.

Typically, a chat with Leno or Letterman is a highly coveted staple of any movie publicity tour, especially during awards season, and a way for celebrities from every arena to raise their profiles.

"If talent is going to carry more weight, who is going to go on the show?" said publicist and Oscar strategist Tony Angellotti.

In a statement, the WGA said that "NBC forcing Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien back on the air without writers is not going to provide the quality entertainment that the public deserves."

Late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel is also returning to work Jan. 2. On Monday a booker for his show sent an e-mail to publicists asking for help lining up their clients.

Carson Daly and Ellen DeGeneres, two talk-show hosts who've already returned, have been roundly criticized by the Writers Guild, though they're still apparently booking guests.

DeGeneres' lineup this week includes Carmen Electra, Jane Seymour and a person billed as YouTube star Charice Pempengco. The head of marketing at one studio said many stars have refused to go on "Ellen" because they consider it a "struck" show.

Others are waiting to see guidelines by the Screen Actors Guild, whose leader, Alan Rosenberg, recently vowed in a letter to the WGA that the "Screen Actors Guild will stand with you for as long as it takes."

Although the SAG contract doesn't expire until summer, the actors union shares the screenwriters' concern over securing higher Internet payments.

"The Writers Guild rules don't discourage publicity," said publicist Kelly Bush, who represents comedian Ben Stiller as well as DeGeneres. "They just don't want you to cross the picket line, so it will depend on whether those shows are being picketed. That will make a big difference in what people do."

rachel.abramowitz @latimes.com

chris.lee@latimes.com

Times staff writers John Horn and Matea Gold contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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