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Hollywood launches security lockdown

Hollywood was put under a security lockdown as authorities closed off entire streets five days ahead of cinema's biggest night.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2004 16:05 IST

Hollywood was put under a security lockdown as authorities closed off entire streets just five days ahead of cinema's biggest night of the year, the Oscars.

Streets around the Kodak Theatre, where the winners of the 76th annual Academy Awards will be revealed Sunday, were shut to allow workers to lay the massive red carpet along which Tinseltown's good and great will parade before the cameras and to begin security sweeps of the area.

"This area is going to look very different in one week's time," said a worker helping erect bleachers and prepare the red carpet area in a part of town that many see as seedy.

"You sure won't find any bums on Hollywood Boulevard when the stars come out on Sunday," he said. The event, watched by up to a billion television viewers across the world, is biggest awards show of the year, attended by thousands of movie stars and industry moguls, making it a potential terrorist target.

To ward off any threat, police and other authorities launch a major annual security operation in which the area around the theatre is swept and kept under lockdown until after the Oscars ceremony.

In 2002 and 2003 security at the event was at a historic high following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on US targets and amid the war in US-led Iraq that erupted days ahead of the last year's Oscars.

Officials said this year would be no different. "We are not taking any chances, security will be very tight," said a Los Angeles Police Department official.

Meanwhile Hollywood was abuzz as Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters made their final picks for the winners of the 2004 Oscars ahead of Tuesday's deadline for balloting.

The leader of the pack for this year's Oscars is the final episode of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which is almost universally expected to snatch the coveted best picture Oscar.

But the race could be tight in the acting categories, although South African-born beauty Charlize Theron is widely tipped to win the best actress category for her staggering role in the biopic "Monster."

But the race was thrown into some disarray on Sunday when Johnny Depp scored a surprise victory in the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) awards, which are usually seen as a key bellwether for the Oscars.

Until the victory by the "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" star, the race had been seen as a two-man contest between "Mystic River's" Sean Penn and "Lost in Translation" star Bill Murray.

Theron, 28, took the best actress SAG award Sunday, confirming her position as best actress favourite. "Cold Mountain" co-star Renee Zellweger remained the frontrunner for the best supporting actress gong, while Tim Robbins was widely tipped to snatch the best supporting actor award for his role in the dark drama "Mystic River."

"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" film-maker Peter Jackson led the best director's race, with most pundits predicting that Hollywood has waited until the last of his fantasy films to reward him for the entire series.

First Published: Feb 25, 2004 16:05 IST