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March 29, 2017

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Producers can't keep politics out of Oscars

BEVERLY HILLS, California -- Meryl Streep ushered politics into Hollywood's awards season when she used her Golden Globes acceptance speech to condemn President Donald Trump for what she called his "instinct to humiliate." Stars were even more outspoken at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, held just days after Trump's travel ban caused havoc at airports across the country. Even last week's performance-heavy Grammy Awards had a political edge when members of A Tribe Called Quest raised their fists and Q-Tip repeated a call to "Resist."

The Feb. 26 Academy Awards are the final stop of the industry's annual two months of self-adulation, and while show producers aren't planning any political content, the night's winners might be.

As much as first-time Oscar telecast producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd may want their show to focus on the magic of the movies, they say they support any message spoken from the heart, even if it means turning the Oscar podium into a political pulpit.

"The show has to stand behind the free exchange of ideas," De Luca said in a recent interview. "I do believe a little bit in the famous Sam Goldwyn quote about movies: 'If you want to send a message, call Western Union.' And there's a school of thought that says people are tuning in to celebrate the storytelling that's moved them, and should we limit what we say to a celebration of that?"

But Oscar-caliber artists "are the kind of people that do get moved by the environment and the world they live in," De Luca said, and they may want to use their moment on stage "to share those feelings the same way you shared the story that you're being nominated for, and we want to honor that, too."

Given the tone set by celebrities at other awards shows this season — and on social media since the election — some anti-Trump rhetoric at the Oscars wouldn't be surprising. The show already has a political element: The Iranian director and star of foreign language film nominee "The Salesman" have said they will not attend the ceremony in protest of Trump's travel ban.

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