Don't accuse Barbara Walters of separation anxiety.
For the first time in its 25-year history, her Academy Award-season interview special isn't airing the same night as the Oscar ceremony. Instead, it comes four evenings earlier as the veteran journalist showcases several celebrities -- including multiple Oscar nominee George Clooney -- in the newest "Barbara Walters Special," which closes out sweeps month for ABC on Wednesday, March 1.
Clooney has established an Academy Awards first as the first person to earn three nominations between two films in the same year. He's up for best supporting actor for "Syriana," and he's in other Oscar races for directing and co-writing "Good Night, and Good Luck."
Also interviewed by Walters during the hour: "Grey's Anatomy" co-star Patrick Dempsey; actor and People magazine's latest "sexiest man alive," Matthew McConaughey; and Mariah Carey, who returned to the top of the charts in 2005 with her album "The Emancipation of Mimi."
"We were delighted," Walters maintains of moving off Oscar night. "Being on the same night as the Academy Awards was how it started, but it always bothered us that we were on before the Oscars on the East Coast and after them on the West Coast (where the ceremony airs live earlier). You'd ask someone how it felt to be nominated, but in the West, you'd already know if they'd lost."
Had ABC opted against airing her special this year, Walters says she would have been fine with it, "but they said, 'No, we have to have you.' If we had skipped a year, the world wouldn't have come to an end. Nothing bothers me that much anymore, but it's good for us that this (scheduling) doesn't tie us as closely to the Academy Awards. It gave us more leeway in choosing our guests."
Still, at least one nominee is a logical Walters guest at this time of year. She reports she and Clooney are "old friends, and as soon as he was nominated, the word came to us that he'd do our show. Had he not been, I don't know that he would have wanted to. I did the first major interview with George during his 'ER' days, and he's been on 'The View.' We were absolutely thrilled to get him for this."
Otherwise, other nominees might have been pursued, but some independent-film staples might not have suited Walters' needs. "Philip Seymour Hoffman (up for best actor for 'Capote') is simply wonderful," she says, "but I'm not sure that our audience would know him. I think he'd make a great magazine piece for a show like '20/20.' Although 'Capote' is a superb film, I'm not sure how broadbased it is."
Having recently marked the 2,000th episode of "The View" after doing two of last year's top-rated specials ("Heaven: Where Is It? How Do We Get There?" and "The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2005"), Walters is keeping a packed schedule.
"November and December were very busy," she says, "then I took a breather and went to Chile for a week. As soon as we came back, there was all the booking for the Academy Awards special, then 'The View' went to Las Vegas for four days. We have another special in mind that will probably air in May or June, and then I can take another little breath in the summer and work on the autobiography I keep talking about. I've had no time for it."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun