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The Oscars: Backstage

Out of sight

Behind the scenes, it's all bustle, tears, cheers, last-minute

February 23, 2009|Gina Piccalo

Between the sophisticated dance numbers, Hugh Jackman's neatly handled persona and the unconventional trophy handoffs, there was plenty going on out on the stage. But behind the curtain, there was a whole other performance going on. Here are a few of the memorable moments from behind stage right.

Best of friends: Robert De Niro's eyes looked wet with emotion as he embraced Sean Penn after the "Milk" star's win. Penn was trembling, and when he was asked to speak to a backstage camera crew, he declined with a weak but genuine smile. "My voice is a little shaky. So, no." De Niro, Ben Kingsley and Adrien Brody stood near him. "Good speech," Brody offered.

Keep it moving: Penelope Cruz, her trophy balanced on her left hip as she paused to share a moment with her "Elegy" costar Ben Kingsley, caused a major backup in the hall between commercial breaks. "We've got a show to do everybody," one crew member said, pushing through.

Grin and bear it: As the stage manager counted down the timing, Alicia Keys strode purposefully to the stage. There was a crack and she looked down to see that she'd left behind one of her stiletto heels on the carpet. "No!" And the count kept going, "five, four, three. . . ." A quick confab of talent handlers agreed there was no time to fix it. "Take her shoe off," one said. Keys slipped off the broken shoe and kept moving. She'd go on with just the one.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, February 24, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 3 inches; 135 words Type of Material: Correction
Oscar photographs: In some editions of Monday's Calendar, a photograph with an article about the backstage scene at the Oscars said that it showed Jack Black with a stage director. Black was with the telecast's producer, Laurence Mark. And a caption on a photograph of "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle being congratulated after the show said he was being embraced by his wife. She is his ex-wife. Also, a photograph of Kate Winslet, Sean Penn and Penelope Cruz on the section cover was credited to Los Angeles Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin, but the picture was taken by Times photographer Lawrence K. Ho. And with the article about red carpet fashions, the photograph of actress Taraji P. Henson wearing a Roberto Cavalli gown should have been credited to Times photographer Bryan Chan, not Wally Skalij.

The first ladies: Past lead actress winners Sophia Loren held hands with Shirley MacLaine and kept a hand on her shoulder as they waited to go on to present this year's trophy. By comparison, last year's winner, Marion Cotillard, looked like a schoolgirl. When Reese Witherspoon announced Danny Boyle as best director, Cotillard beamed and applauded.

Hold that pose: A strangely somber Eddie Murphy quietly grabbed a piece of gum before presenting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to comic legend Jerry Lewis. Lewis himself perched on a stool near the stage and swigged water from a bottle as a trio of photographers snapped his picture. "You gotta be faster than that!" he crowed at the three.

Missed that pose: A tiny spotlight hit Daniel Craig's steely blue eyes as Sarah Jessica Parker placed a hand on his shoulder before going onstage to present awards. With Parker's sea foam of a dress undulating underneath her, it created a picture-perfect image for a half-dozen photographers -- who ignored them.

Tick, tock: Outside stage right, dancers in top hats and tails with canes filed through with guys carrying drums and cymbals for a big musical number. Robert Downey Jr. and Steve Martin stood aside as they passed and Martin started singing, "There's no business like show business. . . ." As the dancers filed down by the warren of production offices, Jack Black could be heard shouting to some lucky soul, "You're killing! Continue killing!"

Meanwhile, Hugh Jackman silently ran through the dance steps of the upcoming number in a corner. To his left, the official show clock ticked off 1 hour, 37 minutes to go -- and 22 minutes, 8 seconds over schedule.

Hair today: Robert Pattinson, who is taller in person than you might think, was preceded by his brow and then his hair as he sauntered into the backstage area preparing to present with Amanda Seyfried. The stage manager gave them directions, coaching that he'd withheld from the more experienced presenters. He told them how to walk on and how to walk off. Co-producer Laurence Mark sipped hot tea behind them. "This is the real deal, my darling," the stage manager told Seyfried as she waited to go on. Pattinson stared out at the audience, with that soulful look that has made him such a teen fantasy. When they returned, Seyfried was jumpy with adrenaline, and as she was guided away shouted out, "Bye, dude!" to Pattinson.

He's not laughing: As the camera lingered on Hugh Jackman after his "Australia" joke in the monologue, writer Bruce Vilanch went apoplectic, shouting out, "What the . . . was that? Cut away from him on a punchline!"

Cigarette? After one dance number, a petite male dancer in a silver body suit turned to a colleague and said, "If that wasn't like the first time having sex . . ." He let the thought trail off.

Sweet hearts: Presenters Jack Black and Jennifer Aniston run their lines -- Aniston is the straight man to Black's goofball -- as Dustin Lance Black is making his original screenplay acceptance speech. When the "Milk" writer says he dreamed of getting married, Aniston hits both hands on the script and says, "Bless his little heart! Sweet!"

Stand and deliver: A moment of silence fell over the group of people crowded stage right as white-gloved guards wheeled the 8-pound golden statuettes onstage before the show. "I was getting worried," said the stage manager. "Should we stand and salute?" joked Jennifer Aniston, backstage with beau John Mayer, who whooped quietly when he spotted the awards.

The honorary Oscar to be bestowed upon Jerry Lewis stood alone on its own shelf. The PricewaterhouseCoopers folks were right behind them. As one guard slipped the dolly into place, he wiped sweat off his brow and said, "I've made it!"

Just Jack: Comedic actor Jack Black skipped the red carpet and emerged into the lobby of the Kodak Theatre apparently from a secret underground entrance. When his date asked if he needed a pass, Black smiled his fuzzy grin and said, "No. They recognize us." As if in affirmation, a security guard gave him a nod and said, "Hey, brother."

--

calendar@latimes.com

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