Cameron is king of the Oscars

GOOD MORNING and congrats Oscar winners. … Jim Cameron, “the king of the world,” returned to his seat after winning the best director award, and when I went down to congratulate him he first stopped in the front row to hug Gloria Stuart and then told me, “I’ve got to find another part for her.” He also said, “I’ve got to think of something to say next!” Of course he wasn’t able to think very long, as he won the final and most coveted award right away. … It was a night of the young and the beautiful as well as a tribute to the true giants of the movies. The audience in the Shrine loved the young Ben Affleck and Matt Damon for their genuine juvenile enthusiasm and they cheered as well for the still-enthusiastic and ever-creative Stanley Donen after he received his career achievement award. The audience in the hall also stood and applauded endlessly as the past Oscar-winning actors were introduced one by one for over 10 minutes, and then continued to applaud after all had been introduced and the camera had already gone off them. … The audience also cheered now-three-time winner Jack Nicholson and regretted that he had to cut off before he had finished his bon mots. … The In Memoriam reel, as always, brought prolonged applause from the audience from the start with Lloyd Bridges to Bob Mitchum, Red Skelton and Jimmy Stewart. And film clips of the Academy Award-winning movies from the beginning reminded all in the audience that “They Were Giants”. … The Shrine audience also applauded Bill Conti’s symphony-sized, white-tied Oscar orchestra, which not only played the nominated songs and scores, but also entertained the audience at the Shrine during commercials with past Oscar-winning tunes. The audience also appreciated the one production number by Daniel Ezralow, which in its simplicity of production value was cheered for its artistry … Shirley Temple, who received the longest applause inside the theater during the tribute to past winners, also received an ovation from the fans in the stands, who readily joined in singing her “Happy Birthday” after she told me she’ll be 70 next month. … Robin Williams also received a standing ovation on his win, and the true affection between him and Billy Crystal was obvious at that moment. Billy had received a standing ovation himself at the top of the show for his once-again creative film clip reprise of the year’s nominated films. … Cher told me she is readying to return to the bigscreen with two features in development. … And Madonna confirmed that she will do “Chicago,” and that she plans to do the soundtrack album as well. … The evening was long, but it had its high emotional moments and ranks as one of the better Oscar shows this reporter has covered. Congrats to all.

IT WAS ANTICIPATED THE SHOW would run three hours and 40 minutes — and it came in just five minutes longer. But Gil Cates wasn’t concerned when he told me, “Does anyone say how long the Super Bowl should be on the air? Or how long ‘Hello, Dolly!’ should be onstage?” As for concern that the introduction of past acting winners would lengthen the show, it was obvious, even during rehearsal, that audience reaction would be memorable. At first, each past winner was to be brought on individually for an introduction. But that was soon changed to the grand presentation followed by clips. Director Lou Horvitz had a similar experience at the Kennedy Center Honors — when 1,000 past participants in that show were brought onstage — but he had time to edit that show for later airing! Despite earlier worries about NABET strike threats, confidence was high as the hours dwindled down to airtime. And Acad president Bob Rehme was talking positively to me not only of this show but of the future Oscars. With two years to go on ABC, negotiations will start soon for the next network home of Oscar. Rehme also talked about the not-too-distant theater home of Oscar in the proposed development at Hollywood and Highland. That theater, he noted, would have built-in TV placements for equipment so theater seats would not have to be removed as they are in both the Shrine and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The Oscars return to the Music Center next year, and the following year back to the Shrine. And then — will the new theater be ready?

AND IT NOW LOOKS LIKE THE OSCARCAST will air on Sunday next year — plus a half-hour network pre-show. I have long advocated the pre-show since, prejudiced though I may be, the excitement outside the theater is a great buildup for the awards presentation itself. … Rehme’s and Cates’ enthusiasm for this 70th show leads me to believe that Rehme would gladly return for a four-year presidency term after this one-year winds. And that Cates would return for a ninth year, again teamed with Mike Seligman and his well-tuned troupe. … Hal Kanter, writing his 28th Academy Awards, is rightfully writing his book, “So Funny, So Far” (tentative title) for McFarland. … Bruce Vilanch segues from the Oscars to script (solely) “Birdcage II,” with the original cast returning — and a larger role (thank you) for Hank Azaria. … When Juliette Binoche suffered a leg injury and, as last year’s supporting actress winner (“The English Patient”) was forced to bow out as a presenter, Mira Sorvino, earlier winner, subbed. And Anthony Hopkins, winner and a nominee again this year, was also prevented from attending due to a leg injury. Obviously, we were disappointed about both mishaps. And one of those who was doubly disappointed by Hopkins’ absence was — Bart the bear, who “co-starred” in “The Edge” with Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. Bart had been at the Shrine since last Friday, in a specially devised tent behind the auditorium, where he could become accustomed to the place — and the climate, which is much warmer than his Utah digs. … I asked Billy Crystal howcum he didn’t participate in the presentation with Bart the bear (Mike Myers was happy to grin and bear it). Crystal told me, “Like W.C. Fields said, don’t work with kids or animals!” I wondered if Crystal was disappointed his movie “My Giant” now has a delayed opening — to mid-April. He didn’t seem too perturbed. But I imagine “Giant” was planned to ride quickly on Billy’s giant Oscar performance. Word was also out that “Grease,” bowing this weekend, has been tracking great in advance of its return, which would have coincided with “Giant”. … Glamorous Madonna and Elisabeth Shue, backstage in the Green Room, were talking about babies — Madonna’s daughter, Elisabeth’s son! … And Jennifer Lopez (“Selena”) was listening to music tracks — she’s readying an album both in English and Spanish. … Martin Scorsese told me he will be screening “Kundun” for the Dalai Lama April 30 in N.Y.’s St. John the Divine Cathedral. Next, Scorsese says, will be his Dean Martin film to star Tom Hanks with a fall start. He smilingly said every top name wants to play one of the star roles. He’ll shoot in L.A.

ROY CHRISTOPHER SAID HIS SPECTACULAR Oscar set cost $600,000. They offered to give (some of) it to USC following last night’s debut. But, he said, it is just too big! While a computer was being used to swirl those giant Oscars and other parts of the mammoth set, Christopher told me he also relies on the faithful stage hands who are always standing by to move everything manually! Or to move Bill Conti and his orchestra from the rear of the cavernous Shrine stage to the fore should any of the electronic equipment ever fail. … Secrecy was at the highest level I’ve ever noted at an Oscar ceremony. But as usual, Price Waterhouse’s keepers of the winning cards were accompanied by security as they made their way to the auditorium. This year, Greg Garrison’s partner was Lisa Pierozzi. She was stationed on stage left, Garrison on the right with duplicate sets of envelopes — so there would be no chance of foul-up as there was when Sharon Stone was presenting in 1996. Pierozzi told me she and Garrison had known the winners since last Friday (kept in a safe) and only on Monday morning did they place the names in the proper envelopes for the announcements of “And the Oscar goes to…” She also detailed to me the check and double-check system they have to be certain no one votes more than once — when they claim a lost or destroyed ballot and request a second or third. And the Academy also knows when the wrong person is sitting in an Academy member’s seat. Yes, Oscar is still the hottest ticket in town — after 70 years.

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