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Will $55-million lawsuit rough up 'Gangster' at Oscars?

January 17, 2008 |  2:51 pm

Lucky for "American Gangster" that Oscar nomination ballots are already in. Right now, five days before bids will be unveiled, "Gangster" stands a Denzelwhitestripchance to make the best-pic lineup and a very good shot at its star Denzel Washingon being nominated for best actor.

Yesterday three Drug Enforcement Administration agents filed a $55 million defamation suit against Universal Studios claiming that the film "tarnished hundreds of reputations," according to Reuters. READ MORE

Poor Denzel. Here he goes again. A hubbub over the accuracy of one of his previous real-life movies hurt him back in the 1999 derby. After winning the Golden Globe for "The Hurricane," he got knocked out of the Oscar best-actor match after it was revealed that his film sugar-coated the life of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who was imprisoned for triple murder. The best-actor belt ended up going to Kevin Spacey for a fictitious role in "American Beauty."


However, Denzel ended up benefitting from a similar controversy two years later when a flapdoodle erupted over accuracy of "A Beautiful Mind's" portrayal of the life of math genius John Nash. That scandal, plus an uproar surrounding Russell Crowe's man-handling of a BAFTA TV producer, ended up tossing the Oscar to Denzel for his role of a corrupt fictitious cop who howls "King Kong ain't got nuthin' on me!" in "Training Day."

This time an uproar over a film's accuracy probably won't have much impact on the Oscar race. Nominations will be unaffected and there's little hope that Denzel can beat Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood"), George Clooney ("Michael Clayton") or Johnny Depp ("Sweeney Todd") for best actor. But the film is currently in 282 theaters just waiting and hoping for a big Oscar bump next Tuesday. It's already grossed $130 million since November, but there will be huge renewed interest in the film if it lands in the top derby races, which is possible.

According to a top Oscar consultant not involved with "Gangster," Denzel's film has a very good chance to be nominated for best picture. "As I see it, 'No Country for Old Men,' 'There Will Be Blood' and 'Juno' are definitely in," he says. "'American Gangster' is in that next tier along with 'Michael Clayton,' 'Diving Bell' and 'Into the Wild.' Those are the seven film slugging it out for the five slots."

Personally, yes, I think that's a fair appraisal.