Academy President Sid Ganis to Movieline: 'You Have Now Proposed Something I Have to Keep an Eye On'

Now that the Academy has announced that it will be expanding the Best Picture race to ten nominees, everyone in town has an opinion about whether the move was a brilliant reinvention or a go-for-broke bailout. Movieline went straight to the top -- Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis -- to get the lowdown on the Oscars' bombshell announcement.

Sid, how did you manage to keep this huge announcement secret?

[Laughing] It was my biggest accomplishment on this! You know, I talked to the board and we all agreed that it was a major announcement and we had to keep quiet. But still, I'm not sure how it happened. It might happen again in my life, but I'm not counting on it.

I know this concept had been pitched to you before, but when did it become a serious discussion?

We started really talking about it after this year's show, so at the end of February. We started talking to each other about it in a casual way and then, you know, we have these review meetings to look at the show and analyze what we did. We have two of them, and we invite the producers to the first one to get their point of view on what doing the show was like. And in that one, offhandedly, just in conversation with the committee, Bill [Condon] and Larry [Mark] both said this. Bill verbalized it in a very casual way: "You know, you guys should consider having ten Best Picture nominees."

And we had been. We'd been talking about it. But this was a "right time, right place" moment, and it set us in motion to analyze all that and think hard about it and eventually make a presentation to the board. And the board agreed -- they'd heard about it at a previous board meeting, but it wasn't absolutely at the top of our list of things we wanted to do until just after the show.

What had kept you from doing it when it was first brought up?

We were just kind of cooking the idea more than agreeing or disagreeing with it. It's just like anything else -- it was percolating in our minds. An idea is put out there, some people have reasons to not do it, some people think we absolutely should...that's what was happening to us.

Still, there are some concerns out there. For example, do you think that the five films that will have matching Best Director nominations will be viewed as the "real" top five?

I don't think so. This is the first time I've heard it. More often than not, the Best Director category does not sync up with the Best Picture category. I know people think that it does or it should, but it doesn't necessarily work out that way with Academy voters, because you remember that the Best Director category is nominated by directors only. The Best Picture category is nominated by the entire Academy voting constituency, so they don't always jibe. So I don't think that that's gonna happen. You have now proposed something I have to keep an eye on. I hadn't thought about it, but you guys did. [Laughs] Movieline did!

But can you conceive of a scenario where something could win Best Picture without getting a Best Director nomination?

Yes, I can. I can. I think that it might happen. I know that it's a hard one to grasp, but it can happen, definitely. It's because of the way those categories are nominated. It may have an imperfect note to it, but it can happen.

Can the telecast accommodate ten separate presentations of the Best Picture nominees, or will we start losing certain tech categories and clips?

I'll tell you this, you just put out two possibilities. One is absolutely impossible: losing a category. We will not lose a category, that's not our game. Our charter is clear, and it's to award excellence for all categories of filmmaking. No, they're all going to be there. Then, in terms of whether the clips are going to be shorter: they might be. They might be shorter, they might be longer, it has to do with the elements that go into creating the whole. There are 350 elements or something like that, and all of that will be in the hands of the producers who create the show this year, and we don't have those producers yet.

Will there be time to continue one of the last ceremony's most well-received additions: five past winners feting the nominees?

I thought that worked beautifully. I hoped for a shorter show, but the longer show was very well-received, and I must say, didn't seem longer. So what we did last year, will it be a tradition? I don't know. I don't like to think in terms of traditions. I want to be innovative all the time, and this past year we were able to be "innovative plus."

You've said you would be lying if you said The Dark Knight didn't come up in discussion. Was that after the nominations were announced, or after the Oscars telecast itself?

You know, people talk all the time. My friends talk to me constantly about movies -- so does my wife and family. So I can't put a specific time on that to assure you. It's just conversation. I'm sure you said -- you, as a journalist -- "Hey, what happened to Dark Knight?" Although I don't want to use Dark Knight as the absolute reason we did this. It's not. We started talking about this before there was such a thing as Dark Knight.

Still, The Dark Knight was nominated at the PGA, WGA and DGA. Why do you think it wasn't in the Academy's top five?

You would have to poll every single Academy member who voted on the nominations and ask them why, because that's the answer. Not enough Academy nominators saw fit to put it down. And maybe that will change if there are ten slots. I don't know whether The Dark Knight would have been nominated, or Tropic Thunder would have been nominated, or Waltz with Bashir would have been nominated. Who knows? I don't know. The one good thing about the way we deal with voting in the Academy, and I know you know this, is that Price Waterhouse is secret.

I wonder if that's something that people don't realize, that you have no idea what nominations six through ten would have been if you'd had this new rule instituted last year.

That's correct. You are exactly correct, I have no idea what the next group might have been, and no one in the Academy has any idea, either.

Your presidency ends in August. Are you bummed you won't be able to see this concept through?

[Laughing] No, no. I'm happy I was able to do it in my time. I do have a kind of lofty title next year: it's called the "immediate past president." That means I'm on the board, so I'll be in there pitching. I'll make my presence known. ♦


  • Nick McC. says:

    What a surprise, Bill "Dreamgirls" Condon thinks they should have ten nominees now. Still a little burned by that Best picture snub, eh? (Although if it meant "Gods and Monsters" would have been nominated in 1999, then i'm not so annoyed).

  • jimrockford says:

    "Will there be time to continue one of the last ceremony’s most well-received additions: five past winners feting the nominees?...
    I thought that worked beautifully. I hoped for a shorter show, but the longer show was very well-received, and I must say, didn’t seem longer."
    Oh yeah? On what planet?

  • JM says:

    I do hope that they can keep up some of the fun of this past ceremony. Jackman was a delight, most of it was rather swift, and, as he said, there were some interesting innovations. It was also on-time for once. It would be rather sad if the new ten noms thing is a sell-out to draw more ratings. If they wanted to expand it, seven would seem a more appropriate number without diluting the field.

  • MCU says:

    Could everyone just can it about The Dark Knight already? I mean, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was, I admit, perhaps the best comic movie ever made. The best comic book movie ever made.
    Yes, Heath Ledger was great. Yes, Christian Bale was very intense, again. Yes, it was ever so goddamned exciting when Christopher Nolan actually flipped a real eighteen-wheeler. But the direction and especially the writing were nowhere near on par with any of the other contenders.
    I pray to freaking Christ that The Dark Knight is not as good as we can do, even in a future dictated by tentpoles and franchises and guys in capes and tights.

  • Kyle Buchanan says:

    Planet "Fierce Sophia Loren Works It While Honoring Meryl Streep."

  • south2nd says:

    With a gun to my head, I could not come up with 10 films that deserve to win best picture this year.

  • Euan says:

    And you could come up with five?

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    Well, the year's not over, and most "Oscar contenders" traditionally come out in the Fall.
    Frankly, I smell a nod for "Up" which would have been doubtful otherwise.

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    Well, the year's not over, and most "Oscar contenders" traditionally come out in the Fall.
    Frankly, I smell a nod for "Up" which would have been doubtful otherwise.