The international diamond industry must be getting pretty nervous about “The Blood Diamond.”

Word is that Sitrick and Company, Tinseltown’s top spinmeisters, have been hired by De Beers, the world’s largest supplier of rough diamonds, to deflect the negative image of their industry portrayed in the upcoming film which stars Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio  (“The Aviator”), Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind”) and Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou (“In America”).

“Diamond,” produced by Ed Zwick, will not be released until Jan 12, 2007. It’s the wrenching story of two South Africans, a mercenary (DiCaprio) and a fisherman (Hounsou) during the savage ’90s Sierra Leone civil wars when rebels seized mines to sell “conflict” or “blood diamonds” to buy arms, murdering and mutilating (hand/arm amputation was a popular rebel sport) thousands of innocent men, women and children.Mandella

So guess who Sitrick plans to trot out to help stop the bad bling publicity? 

None other than South Africa’s activist and first post-apartheid president Nelson Mandela.

“Mandela is going to say that all that stuff seen in the film is in the past, that there are no more conflict diamonds in circulation and that the diamond industry is economically good for South Africa,” a smiling inside source revealed. “And who in their right mind is going to argue with Nelson Mandela?"

Who indeed.

But “Blood Diamond” will be one of those “important issue" awards season frontrunners. Diamonds used to fund wars and fuel massive slaughters is pretty nasty stuff. Imagine what this negative buzz could do to the bling quotient on the 2007 awards season red carpets.

The Academy/Globe consideration screenings in November may start the bad press that could hurt December diamond sales, not to mention Valentine’s Day.

As far back as September 2005, De Beers’ honcho Jonathan Oppenheimer warned an industry convention that the movie was likely to attract a huge audience. "Can you imagine its impact on the Christmas-buying audience in America if the message is not carried through that this (conflict diamonds) is something of the past, that this is something that has been managed and taken care of?"

But it shouldn’t be a shock that Mandela would take the diamond dudes side. After De Beers chairman Harry Oppenheimer‘s death in 2000, Mandela recognized his support for democratic and philanthropic causes in a Time magazine obit, hailing him as "monumentally instrumental in helping our country become the economic leader it is today."

Gosh, who can argue with that?

Photo Credit: Nelson Mandela – seen at the 46664 HIV/AIDS Awareness Concert in 2005 – may show up in Hollywood to help De Beers fight any bad publicity due to "The Blood Diamond."
WireImage/Shayne Robinson

Posted by:LATimes