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Did Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson and other stars refuse to share the spotlight at the Oscars?

March 8, 2009 | 11:10 pm

The two biggest no-shows at the Oscars were Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem. Traditionally, last year's recipients of acting awards return to bestow statuettes on the newest winners, usually of the opposite gender. This year, that procedure was switched. The previous year's champs were asked to give Oscars to winners of the same gender, and each one was joined by four other past champs in that same category who took turns addressing the nominees one by one before the envelope was opened.

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However, only two of last year's winners showed up: Marion Cotillard and Tilda Swinton. When Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem went missing, their absence was so extraordinary that it was the topic of much gossip.

Clearly,  Bardem had a good excuse for not being present: He was suffering from a back injury. But what about Day-Lewis? A source close to the Oscarcast revealed interesting info to Gold Derby but would only speak anonymously because he feared that his future relationship with the telecast might be jeopardized.

Apparently, there were two reasons Day-Lewis didn't show up at the Oscars. Our source said he "wouldn't do the group thing" and he didn't want "to single out one person's performance for endorsement," referring to the way each of the five past winners focused attention upon one current nominee. But isn't that what Day-Lewis did in 1990 when he bestowed the lead-actress award to Kathy Bates ("Misery") one year after he won for "My Left Foot"? Wasn't he singling out just her performance?

Day-Lewis' rep tells Gold Derby that he wasn't present because he was exhausted after recently shooting the movie "Nine," "and he wanted to stay home and spend time with his family" at their residence in Ireland.

But haven't scores of other past winners been in similar situations — tired after film shoots when they were summoned to pass the Oscar crown to a new royal line? Virtually all of them managed to show up. If the "Nine" shoot was especially brutal, it didn't stop Penelope Cruz from attending. Cruz told Gold Derby that she was exhausted too, but she planned to be there.

"That's different," Day-Lewis' rep told us. "Cruz was nominated, and she hasn't won before."

Why should that matter? Don't big actors always insist that they're team players, one mere humble member of that great family of thespians?

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This year, the Oscars telecast was plagued with past winners who "didn't want to do the group thing," our source says. Curiously, it seemed to be more of a problem in the supporting categories than lead. In some cases, the stars' refusals weren't due to ego but because they "couldn't wrap their heads around the concept" of a group presentation.

However, the latter didn't seem to be the case with Jack Nicholson, a past winner of both categories (lead for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "As Good as It Gets," supporting for "Terms of Endearment"). As Gold Derby reported earlier, he wasn't asked to participate in the group thing for the supporting slot, which would've been great if he'd accepted. Imagine Nicholson discussing what he thought of Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," a role he portrayed in "Batman."

But our source says that Jack was invited to do the group thing in the lead race but declined, informing Oscarcast producers, "I present alone."

We asked Nicholson's rep Sandy Bresler to comment on this report, but he did not respond to our phone call or to an e-mail in which we presented the inquiry in detail. We also sent a detailed e-mail to Oscarcast producer Laurence Mark (he's the person Daniel Day-Lewis spoke to on the phone when declining to attend), asking him to respond to all of the claims made by our source, but he also did not reply.

After Nicholson snubbed the Oscars show, we asked Gold Derby readers what they thought he ended up doing that night. In our poll, only about 14% of respondents said they believe he watched the Oscars on TV. The other 86% said they think the three-time past Oscar winner watched the Lakers basketball game instead.

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Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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