The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is considering action against a producer of "The Hurt Locker" who sent out multiple e-mails urging academy members to vote for his movie in the Oscar best-picture category and "not a $500 million film," an obvious reference to close-competitor "Avatar."
The e-mails by Nicolas Chartier, one of four nominated producers for "The Hurt Locker" and who put up the financing to make the front-running film, violated the academy's rule against sending mailings that "attempt to promote any film or achievement by casting a negative light on a competing film or achievement," according to academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger.
The initial e-mail was sent Feb. 19 and obtained by The AssociatedPress. Subsequent e-mails, posted by the Los Angeles Times, showed Chartier giving more specific instructions, asking Oscar voters to rank "The Hurt Locker" at No. 1 and "Avatar" at No. 10 on this year's preferential ballot for the newly expanded best-picture category.
"Hurt Locker" distributor Summit Pictures said in a statement it was "completely unaware of any e-mails that were sent until we were alerted by the academy earlier this week."
Chartier, after being confronted by Summit executives, worked with the studio and the academy to craft an apology for his actions, said Summit spokesman Paul Pflug.
"My naivete, ignorance of the rules and plain stupidity as a first-time nominee is not an excuse for this behavior and I strongly regret it," Chartier wrote in an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press. "Being nominated for an academy Award is the ultimate honor and I should have taken the time to read the rules."
"Avatar's" distributor, 20th Century Fox, declined comment on the e-mails, as did director James Cameron or anyone connected with the 3-D sci-fi sensation — Hollywood's biggest modern blockbuster.
The motion picture academy itself will hold off on announcing how exactly it plans to discipline Chartier until Oscar voting closes at 5 p.m. PST on Tuesday. The academy's Unger refused to speculate on what action might be taken.