A producer for Oscar-nominated war film The Hurt Locker will not be allowed to attend the awards ceremony after breaking Academy rules. Nicolas Chartier has been barred from the event after sending an e-mail to voters urging them to name his movie as best film over rival Avatar. Academy rules prohibit the mailing of members to promote or disparage a film. But should The Hurt Locker win best picture, Chartier will still receive his Oscar statuette at a later date.

In his email, which was sent to members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in late February, Chartier asked members to choose The Hurt Locker over what he described as “a $500 million film” – a clear reference to fellow best picture contender Avatar. Subsequent emails, posted by the Los Angeles Times, showed Chartier asking Oscar voters to rank his film at number one and Avatar at number 10 among the list of nominated films.

Although he later apologised, citing “naivete, ignorance of the rules and plain stupidity as a first-time nominee” for the error, the Academy said Chartier had violated campaigning standards. “Chartier had recently disseminated an email to certain Academy voters and other film industry figures in which he solicited votes for his own picture and disparaged one of the other contending films. “Academy rules prohibit ‘casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film’,” the Academy said in a statement.However organisers stopped short of the harsher penalty of withdrawing Chartier’s nomination, which would have kept him from receiving an Oscar statuette if his film won. The punishment is ironic, as Academy rules state only three producers are eligible to be awarded the best picture statuette.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, screenwriter Mark Boal – both of whom are also producers on the film – and third producer Greg Shapiro all lobbied for Chartier’s inclusion. After deliberations, the Academy conceded. The penalty against Chartier does not affect the other three producers, who are free to attend the Oscars. Both The Hurt Locker and Avatar are up for nine awards at the Oscars ceremony on 7 March. Meanwhile, A US Army sergeant is suing the makers of The Hurt Locker, claiming the central character in the film is based on him. Jeffrey Sarver says screenwriter Boal based “virtually all of the situations” in the film on events involving him and claims he coined the phrase “the hurt locker”. The Hurt Locker’s distributor, Summit Entertainment, said the film was a “fictional account” about soldiers in the battlefield.

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