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Her Latest Sequel

Laura Ziskin vows that this year's Oscar telecast will come in at less than four hours.


ELLEN'S on line 1, Oscar talent coordinator Danette Herman's just leaving and everywhere you look, there's a picture of Oscar or Spider-Man. The battle plan for the logistics of this year's Academy Awards show emerged from the office of producer Laura Ziskin, right on Main Street in the heart of the Sony Pictures lot. With its overstuffed furniture, indirect lighting and Jo Malone candles, it is clearly a home away from home.

Ziskin, who in addition to the Spider-Man franchise, has worked on such hits as "Pretty Woman" and "As Good As It Gets," is as calm as the producer of the Oscars has a right to be at two weeks away from show time. But it isn't her first go 'round -- she produced in 2002, when the show famously hit the four-hour mark, something she's determined to avoid this time.

What is different for you about this year's show?

Everything. Last time, we opened the Kodak. The seats weren't even in when we went in. We spent a lot of time breaking in the house. And we were in the shadow of 9/11, it was a very different mood. This year, I'm in a party mood. Not that the world is perfect, but I'm the producer and I get to decide and I've decided we're going to have a big party.

What will be different for the audience?

It's going to be a very musical show. I have a new musical director, Bill Ross, and there will be a very theatrical feel to the show. And we'll have a DJ in the house for between acts. I want people in their seats, not out drinking at the bar. I want to keep it electric.

So what are you planning to wear?

Ah, the important questions. I woke up this morning and realized I didn't have a dress and if I didn't move on it, there wouldn't be any left. I don't have a designer picked but I'm working with Andre Leon Tally, who collaborated with us for the fashion show we just did at the Academy. He's guiding me. I do have a fabulous 'working suit' for earlier in the day, so I may wind up just wearing that. It's black, of course.

Where will you get ready?

At the Kodak, in my office.

And shoes, heels or flats?

I just told someone that the most important thing about the show is wearing comfortable shoes. I'm lucky, I like high heels, I like running around in high heels. So I'll have really high heels and a back-up pair that are a little lower. But still heels.

Do you have any talisman or rituals for the day of, to bring you good luck?

I'll be in rehearsal up until a few hours before the show, so no time for that. I don't go to any of the parties, don't have any special voodoo.

Should we look for big surprises?

I do have some real secrets. I don't have a Woody Allen up my sleeve like I did last time, but I have a lot of surprises. [The director, who famously never attends the Oscars, made an appearance in 2002 as part of a We Love New York montage.] My theory is the show has 12 acts. I want a wowee in every act.

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