‘Nominees to be determined’ until arbitration

Sharing a podium does not come naturally in Hollywood, as the producers of New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” are discovering.

The company submitted four producer names to the Acad for “Lord”: Peter Jackson, Frances Walsh, Barrie M. Osborne and Tim Sanders. Due to recently tightened AMPAS rules, however, only three can be listed with the film’s best picture nomination, one of 13 the pic copped Tuesday.

In the top category, the film now carries this curious attachment: “Nominees to be determined.”

Now, the Acad’s producers’ branch will arbitrate and select three names to be formally listed as nominees. Only those three will be permitted onstage to accept the statuette, should “Lord” take home the top prize.

Even three producers could be a crowd for the long-in-development “Lord.” When it won best motion picture at last month’s inaugural AFI Awards, Osborne took up all of the film’s allotted TV time with his thank-yous, meaning New Line topper Bob Shaye got cut off just as he opened his mouth to speak.

On Tuesday, New Line offered only this official statement: “This is an Academy matter which they are in the process of resolving.”

The producer’s branch of the Academy is expected to deliver a verdict by the end of the month. An org rep — one of the few still awake after the pre-noms all nighter — was unable to shed more light on the nature of the arbitration process.

Company sources indicated that New Line didn’t want to jinx the film before the nominations were announced by trimming the producer list to three.

The new feature animation category had similar issues with name recognition. In that race, only two producers can be mentioned and appear onstage. DreamWorks opted for only one –Aron Warner. Disney and Paramount, perhaps still puzzling over the politics, struggled in “Rings”-like fashion to determine the final duo, meaning their noms also bore the caveat “nominee to be determined.”

Miramax’s 1999 best picture win for “Shakespeare in Love” — after which everyone but the Bard himself jumped onstage to give thanks –prompted a rule restricting the number of recognized producers.

Efforts by AMPAS to tighten producer credit rules have made in conjunction with similar moves by the Producers Guild of America during the past two years. The PGA launched a campaign in 2000 to limit producer credits to three per film or TV show.

“We’re very heartened by the Academy’s decision and we’re very supportive of trying to bring a semblance of order and legitimacy to the credits issue,” said PGA exec director Van Van Petten.

Several recent pics have raised eyebrows, even in credit-happy Hollywood, with their abundance of producer credits. Universal Focus’ “Caveman’s Valentine” lists 17 producers of varying types and six full producers. “Rings” has a total of 12, including a raft of name exec producers such as Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

The PGA is due to announce today the names of producers for nominated PGA features and TV shows, following a three-month internal accreditation process.

Producers excluded from the PGA’s list will be allowed to file appeals within 48 hours of the announcement.