An inside view of preps and rehearsals at the Kodak Theater.
By Steve Pond, The Envelope, The Envelope
February 20, 2007
The ballots are in, the campaigns have been waged, and the dresses have presumably been chosen. All that’s left now is for some accountants to start counting, for the nominees to write speeches, and for a group of people at Hollywood & Highland to put on a show.
The final week has begun inside the Kodak Theater, where the set has been loaded in and the crew assembled for an intense rehearsal process. So far most of the work has been on the technical side, but that’ll soon change.
From Tuesday’s rehearsals, a few Kodak moments:
The stars have arrived. Not the flesh-and-blood stars, mind you; they won’t start showing up for another couple of days. But on Tuesday morning, the seat cards were placed in the orchestra section of the Kodak, indicating just where all the nominees, presenters and performers will be sitting come Sunday night.
In the past, actors and other high-profile nominees got their pictures on their cards, but nominees in the craft categories did not. But show producer Laura Ziskin wants to shine a spotlight on all the nominees, so she’s been has been in touch with all 177 off them, asking for personal information, stories and photos.
As a result, virtually every seat card includes a photo this year, from Meryl Streep in the front row to documentary short nominee Nathaniel Kahn way in the back.
Amusingly, two of the only people who warrant seat cards but aren’t pictured are the two top academy officials, president Sid Ganis and executive director Bruce Davis.
The seating arrangement is far from haphazard, but it makes for some unusual juxtapositions: Kirsten Dunst next to Queen Latifah, Will Ferrell alongside Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts at the end of a row otherwise devoted to “Dreamgirls.”
On every seat card but one, incidentally, acting nominees and presenters are pictured not as a character they’ve played, but as themselves. The only exception: Sacha Baron Cohen, whose card sports a huge, smiling photo of his alter ego, Borat.
Just before lunch, writer Bruce Vilanch walked off the Kodak stage in mock exasperation, exclaiming, “They stole my shower curtain!”
Onstage behind him hung a shimmering crystal curtain, a hugely expensive drape supplied to the academy at no charge by the Swarovski crystal company. The curtain, 34 feet high and hung with double strands of crystals, had been fabricated in Austria and then strung in the United States, before it was carefully hung at the Kodak by staffers wearing gloves.
Before making the curtain, which came from an idea that art director Greg Richman had after seeing “Dreamgirls,” Swarovski did have a question: how often will it be used during the show? The company agreed to cooperate when Richman assured them that it’d be on display frequently, including many of the show’s big momentsâ€¦
It’s still early to make many predictions about the show itself, but a few things are apparent:
The telecast will include lots of film, but most of it won’t be the usual Oscar montages.
Ellen DeGeneres will be a very active host.
The order of the awards will not be as predictable as usual. Sure, everybody knows the ones that’ll be handed out at the end of the evening-but before that, other key categories will be distributed less predictably than usual.
The dance company Pilobolus will play a significant role in the evening, though not in the way that dance troupes are usually used at the Oscars.
And if the length of the show is a tie-breaker question in your Oscar pool, it’d probably be wise to guess long. Ziskin, always a font of ideas when it comes to the Oscars, has put together an event that staffers are guessing will be considerably longer than the three-and-a-half hour shows of the past two years.
Finally, the Oscar poster, and those billboards around town, aren’t the only places where famous movie quotes are being showcased. On the outside of the green room, the backstage sanctuary for the stars that at the moment is still being decorated, a long banner hangs. On the banner is a quote from “All About Eve” that may be a joke, or it may be a prediction.
“FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS,” it reads, “IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY NIGHT!”