Producers of the 75th Academy Awards said yesterday (Mar 18) they would go ahead with a modified Oscars telecast on Mar 23, but were prepared to defer to breaking news from the Gulf.

The announcement was made at a press conference in Hollywood by Gil Cates, the veteran producer of the Oscars telecast, barely 24 hours after President Bush ordered Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq within 48 hours or face certain war.

Acknowledging the bizarre mood as the motion picture industry's elite geared up for the biggest awards ceremony of the year while thousands of miles away men and women prepared to fight, Cates said the show would reflect a more sombre tone.

In three notable changes, Cates said there would be a more sober pre-show broadcast, a truncated red carpet arrivals line and no stopping by celebrities for interviews or photographs.

"We are continuing our efforts to bring the show together on Sunday, but we do understand that ABC may adjust to war coverage if it is required and that ABC news will cover news as it happens," Cates said.

"Any such decisions in regard to broadcasting the show will be made later in the week, and will be made jointly by the Academy and ABC."

He continued: "Keeping in mind the world situation, the Academy has elected to prepare a more sober pre-show and a scaled-back arrivals sequence.

"The traditional splashy red carpet arrivals line will be truncated, the portions of the arrivals press line that existed last year on Hollywood Boulevard will be eliminated and guests arriving by limousine will exit their cars on Hollywood Boulevard and enter the Kodak Theatre directly through the arrivals arch."

Celebrities will not specifically be asked to dress down for the occasion and the matter will remain an individual decision. Cates added that arrangements would be made to pool television coverage of arriving celebrities.