THIS weekend’s Oscars are in crisis — with half of the Best Picture films battling Covid scares.
Nominees have dubbed the panic “swab sweat” — as they nervously await two mandatory PCR tests 48 hours ahead of Sunday’s ceremony.
Stars including Lady Gaga, Dame Judi Dench, Will Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch — plus performers Billie Eilish and Beyonce — have been told they will be forced to miss both the prestigious pre-Oscars Governors Ball tomorrow night and the main event 48 hours later should they test positive.
Belfast director and nominee Kenneth Branagh tested positive last weekend and is missing tonight’s Oscar Wilde Awards in LA.
At least four other cast members from other movies, including multi-nominee The Power Of The Dog, have also caught Covid within the past week.
Last night an insider from Hollywood power-brokers United Talent Agency told The Sun: “Everyone is dealing with swab sweat.
“You get your nose swabbed and then you are sweating on whether the email will land showing you are positive. It is a really anxious time for major stars and nominees especially, knowing this may be their only chance of glory.
“All the events are asking for testing to show LA authorities they are following guidelines and adhering to the ongoing union-agreed coronavirus measures around live broadcasts.
“The socialising at events all week is obviously a major part of the celebrations, but there is a fear that anyone could innocently pick up Covid simply by mixing with an infected person.”
There is “significant concern about a widespread infection”, especially after many attendees at the Bafta Awards and parties two weeks ago caught the disease.
Aside from the main ceremony other events across Los Angeles, including private house parties held by A-listers, are demanding that attendees do an antigen test on arrival to keep others safe.
The tight health policy, which is spreading “the fear of missing out on the biggest night of the Hollywood calendar”, comes as LA health authorities and event organisers double down on safety.
Branagh is currently in isolation in LA hoping he can test negative before Sunday’s show to see whether Belfast takes home the prestigious Best Picture gong.
Cases of the BA.2 subvariant, which spreads 80 per cent faster than Omicron, have more than doubled in the US over two weeks, and it is set to become the dominant variant.
This week White House chief medical advisor Dr Anthony Fauci said cases were on the rise.
Masks are once again becoming mandatory indoors in many hotels, bars and indoor spaces, and it is thought serving staff at the event on Sunday will be told to wear them.
While the build-up to the biggest night in the film calendar is always manic, panic is palpably on the rise in Hollywood.
There is also mounting tension behind the scenes after Academy bosses decided to shorten the actual televised ceremony in order to boost ratings. With viewing numbers falling off a cliff in recent years, eight categories will now be pre-recorded.
He added: “Behind-the-scenes workers get little recognition as is.”
On Wednesday Peter Kurland, a four-time Oscar-nominated sound mixer who sits on the Cinema Audio Society’s board, resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over plans to axe live gongs for categories including Best Sound.
It is the second embarrassing resignation, coming three weeks after Tom Fleischman, an Oscar-winning re-recording mixer, quit.
This year it’s the Best Actress category which is generating the most public interest. Penelope Cruz, Kristen Stewart, Olivia Colman, Jessica Chastain and Nicole Kidman are all battling it out to scoop the coveted gong on the night.