Oscars provocateur Michael Moore says he’s more in demand now

By Glenn Lovell Knight Ridder Newspapers (KRT) How costly was Michael Moore’s “Shame on you, Mr. Bush” Oscar speech on Sunday _ the speech that elicited what sounded like more boos than cheers from Hollywood’s A-list? Did the professional provocateur who won the best-documentary award for “Bowling for Columbine” burn what remained of his bridges to the industry? Quite the contrary, insists Moore in his first print interview since Oscar night. He’s never been more in demand, he says, pointing to new production deals and increased sales of his non-fiction “Stupid White Men,” back at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. “I’ve had zero hostility from anyone in the Hollywood community,” says Moore from his New York home. “As uncomfortable as it might have been for some people to hear, I said things that needed to be said, and those same people who cheered me on Oscar night have been extremely supportive all week and enthusiastic about wanting to work with me or produce my projects.” As for those Oscar-night boos, many came from Kodak Theatre stagehands backstage and were oddly “amplified,” perhaps by microphones, contends the filmmaker. “I heard some yelling and someone shouting, `No! No!’ as I started my speech. The boos were amplified through the house. And yet, as I looked out at the audience, no one was booing.” Does he have proof of this? “If you’ve got a tape, look at the tape,” he says. “That’s bull! He’s totally, totally incorrect,” fires back Gilbert Cates, who produced the Oscar telecast. “I take personal umbrage at his accusation that we manipulated the sound for political purposes. The sound in the audience was consistent for everybody’s applause and boos, which seemed about equal to me.” The crowd reaction shots during his anti-Bush speech were cut to make it appear that the audience was more anti-Moore that it was, Moore charges. “Martin Scorsese was going to applaud and they cut away from him. You could see the camera desperately trying to find people who were disagreeing with me and they couldn’t.” “The man is paranoid,” says Cates, who cued the music when Moore got to “Shame on you, Mr. Bush” because “I felt that was enough.” Cates adds, “It’s a live event. We shot a lot of people responding to him. What you saw at home was absolutely representative of what took place in the theater.” Moore says he was as surprised by what took place after the show as he was by the standing ovation that greeted his win. “At the Governors Ball afterward I thought that at least one person was going to say something negative. Nobody did.” Instead, Paramount Pictures boss Sherry Lansing greeted him with a hug and academy president Frank Pierson said, according to Moore, “Way to go! That’s what America’s all about.” In the days since the show, he has received calls and e-mails of support from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and an Oscar-winning actress he chooses not to “out” by “dragging her into my thing.” Harrison Ford, who smiled at Moore comments but did not applaud, offered kind words before the show, says Moore, and “told me how proud he was of me.” To those who contend that his comments were both ill-timed and unpatriotic, Moore responds, “I was being honored for a film that deals with the American culture of violence, both at home and abroad, and it felt like the perfect things to say … the appropriate thing to say.” Was he disappointed that more Hollywood actor-activists, such as Susan Sarandon, didn’t voice their anti-war feelings? “Look, they’re actors, OK? I don’t expect them to make any kind of political statement. Susan introduced the part of the show that honored those who died in the past year and it wouldn’t have been appropriate to do anything there.” Since the Academy Awards, Moore says he has heard from one major Hollywood studio and a production company run by an A-list star. They want to back his next two projects _ “Fahrenheit 911,” about the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks, and “Sicko,” about health maintenance organizations and the health-care crisis. Moore’s most recent projects have been financed in Canada and Britain. ___ ‘copy 2003, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Visit Mercury Center, the World Wide Web site of the Mercury News, at http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.