Sanders left out as arbitration picks three

The producing business is producing a few headaches this awards season.

In races for the Oscars and the Producers Guild of America awards, the issue of which producers would be listed in connection with nominated pics has been an intriguing subplot.

The PGA tapped three producers Wednesday as Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year nominees for New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” Frances Walsh, Peter Jackson and Barrie M. Osborne made the cut, while Tim Sanders, who produced Jackson’s previous pic, “The Frighteners,” did not.

Move came a day after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences said the names of those nommed for “Rings” are “to be determined,” because its rules limit producer nominees to three per pic.

Sanders served as more of a creative producer than a line producer, exiting the project midway through its years-long journey to the screen, say those connected to “Rings.” Osborne, a Hollywood veteran whose credits include “The Matrix” and a stint as production VP at Disney, was brought on later in the process to lend his expertise to the high-stakes “Rings” effort. The film’s official Web site features photos and bios of Jackson, Walsh and Osborne, but nothing about Sanders.

This is the third Oscar race to be contested under the three-producer rule implemented after “Shakespeare in Love’s” onstage thank-fest. It is the first time a best picture nominee has had a credit scramble, though categories such as visual effects have seen many such deliberations.

“This is a credit-driven industry, so the limit causes a lot of difficulty,” said AMPAS spokesman John Pavlik. “If we allowed 15 nominees, there would be a 16th wanting to be mentioned.”

The Acad said Wednesday that it was up to New Line to trim the “Rings” list to three, contradicting New Line’s earlier assertion that it is an “Academy matter” that the Acad “is in the process of resolving.”

If the company cannot settle on a trio by next week, then the 23-member executive committee of the Acad’s producers branch would be convened, Pavlik said. The committee would arbitrate by conducting an investigation into the precise nature of each producer’s contributions to the film.

The PGA and New Line refused to say whether Sanders’ name had been submitted to the guild.

The new animated feature category also listed two nominated pics whose credits were TBD: “Monsters, Inc.” and “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.” Unlike the best pic category, toons can list only one “key creative” person, except in pics that have two “co-equal” creatives.

Pavlik said both pics had submitted two names as co-equals, but the Acad balked.

The PGA had originally announced last month that “Rings” and four other pics — “A Beautiful Mind,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Moulin Rouge” and “Shrek” — were candidates for the Zanuck prize, along with 15 TV contenders, but without any producer names.

Appeals allowed

The PGA, which has been campaigning for tightened credit rules since 2000, subsequently determined which producers would be credited for each nominated pic or TV show and then allowed appeals of the decisions. Two such appeals were entered and one was granted, but the org did not disclose the identities of the appellants.

Other PGA-nominated producers announced Wednesday: Brian Grazer and Ron Howard for “A Beautiful Mind”; David Heyman for “Harry Potter”; Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann and Fred Baron for “Moulin Rouge”; and Aron Warner, John H. Williams and Jeffrey Katzenberg for “Shrek.”

In the TV series categories, the number of producers listed was far more extensive, with 31 names attached to the five shows up for the Norman Felton Award in drama series and 26 names for the five shows up for the Danny Thomas Award in comedy series. The seven nominees for “Frasier” include the late David Angell, who died Sept. 11 on one of the planes hijacked by terrorists.

However, the David L. Wolper nominations for longform TV included only a dozen producers for the five shows.

The PGA also announced that Bradley Whitford and Jane Kaczmarek will serve as hosts of the PGA Awards, to be presented March 3 at the Century Plaza in Los Angeles.