Film giant Miramax has received a stern rebuke from the Academy Awards body over an advert supporting Martin Scorsese's bid for Oscar glory for his film Gangs of New York.
Gangs of New York has 10 nominations
Miramax, the producers of the film, reprinted as an advert an article written by former Academy president Robert Wise which endorsed Scorsese for the best director Oscar.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Frank Pierson said the advert was an "outright violation of academy rules".
Miramax, which has been criticised in the past for vigorous Oscar campaigns, said it was surprised by the controversy and said it was unaware the practice was outside of the rules.
A spokesman for the Oscars admitted there was no specific rule in campaign guidelines sent to studios which "expressly bars such endorsements".
Wise, who directed the Sound of Music, originally wrote an article endorsing Scorsese for the Los Angeles Daily News earlier this month.
The column was then reprinted by Miramax as an advert, appearing in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and Hollywood industry papers.
"The reaction among our membership has been real dismay, anger and outrage," said Mr Pierson.
He said some academy members had asked for their completed ballot papers to be returned so that they could change their votes.
But Mr Pierson said all completed ballots, which have to be returned by Tuesday, will stand.
Chicago director Rob Marshall is favourite for the Oscar on Sunday and faces competition from Scorsese, Roman Polanski for The Pianist, Stephen Daldry for The Hours, and Pedro Almodovar for Talk to Her.
A spokeswoman for Scorsese said the director was "horrified" by the adverts.
"He's known Robert Wise for many years, so of course he was touched by what Bob wrote about him, but he didn't know it was going to be used for an ad," she said.
Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson said he found the adverts "extremely vulgar".
"You look at an ad like that and say, 'Why don't we
just give money to people and tell them how to vote?'," he said.
Miramax chief operating officer Rick Sands said he found it "ironic" that there had not been similar complaints when screenwriter William Goldman had written an article criticising Gangs of New York as a "mess".
"Was that not vulgar?" said Sands.
A Miramax spokesman pointed out that last year Julia Roberts had endorsed Denzel Washington's Oscar hopes, while Warren Beatty had similarly backed Halle Berry, both of whom went on to win awards.