Oscar voters: When the motion picture academy is a family affair
It's been said that couples shouldn't keep any secrets from each other. But there's one thing that motion picture academy members Francesca Loschiavo and her husband Dante Ferretti claim they never discuss: how they're planning to mark their Oscar ballots.
Maintaining their vows of silence must be tough this year: The couple were nominated for their art direction on Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," one of their numerous collaborations over the years in Hollywood and their native Italy.
They do, however, compare notes after the fact.
"We are independent, not dependent," Ferretti said in an interview. "She will vote for what she likes, I will vote for what I like. Also, I don’t show her my ballots, and she doesn’t show her ballots, and then we discuss afterward, after we close the envelope.”
Like Ivy League colleges and Appalachian hollers, the academy contains lots of kinfolk. There are extended families like the Gyllenhaals, a clan that includes director Stephen Gyllenhaal; his ex-wife, screenwriter Naomi Foner; the couple's actor offspring, Jake and Maggie; and Maggie's husband and fellow thespian Peter Sarsgaard.
There are Significant Others and Signficant Ex-es. There are famous power couples (Brad and Angelina, Warren and Annette), and blood-relative craftspersons who are little-known among moviegoers but highly regarded by their peers, such as sibling cinematographers John and Matthew Leonetti.
Actor Lorenzo Lamas became a member of the academy at age 22 after his parents, actors Fernando Lamas and Arlene Dahl, endorsed his invitation. The organization had long been a part of the younger Lamas’ life: As a teenager he attended the Oscars and the Governors Ball with his mother, and often accompanied his father to the academy’s headquarters for official screenings.
“It was like the church of show business to me,” Lamas, 54, recalled. “You walk in and see these 10-foot tall gold Oscar statuettes and the names of these huge movie stars and directors who have made such a mark on this industry over the years. I was proud to walk in there with my dad, who was a member in good standing, and watch him shake people’s hands.”
Brother composers Richard and Robert Sherman, the team behind classic movie hits like "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," were signed by Walt Disney in 1960. By 1963, they'd accumulated enough film credits to earn academy membership.
"It’s a beautiful thing, it’s wonderful, we get to meet a lot of our colleagues," said Richard Sherman, a former member of the academy composers branch's executive committee. On two occasions the brothers also wrote the show-opening song number for the Academy Awards telecast.
As far as Oscar voting, Richard said, the brothers take the approach, "You vote your way and I'll vote my way."
"A lot of the times we agree and sometimes we don’t," he added, "because that’s what makes life interesting."
-- Reed Johnson and Amy Kaufman
Photo: Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal at the 82nd Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, March 7, 2010. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times