Zanucks set sights on shorter show
Producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck promise the Oscarcast will have “a new spin” for the new millennium: A faster pace, more stars, a woman’s perspective — and no dance numbers.
Joking and bickering like a couple of veteran morning-talkshow hosts, the duo met the press Thursday morning at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ BevHills HQ to hint at their game plan.
While he said, “We don’t really want to give too much away” in terms of details, she exclaimed, “We do expect that you’ll be knocked out.”
Their “mandate” is a shorter show, he declared, while she added that the Oscarcast hasn’t come in at a three-hour running time since 1968.
“Whatever we do will be pretty fast-paced,” she stated. The two have been watching various kudocasts, studying “what bogs down the show.”
Lili Zanuck added that to trim the running time of a movie, “sometimes you have to cut frames,” and they’ll be trying to shave the running time in similarly subtle ways.
One of the ways will be increased duties for the announcer. She said they had signed “Peter Coy — should I announce this?” “You just did,” he shrugged.
She then said Peter Coyote will be the voice of the show, announcing many of the presenters — relieving the host of such duties and presumably speeding things up.
As for a host, Richard Zanuck said it’s a question of Billy Crystal’s scheduling: “We’re waiting on Billy … He’s kinda born to do this job.”
Women’s p.o.v. & color
Despite wooing the vet host, “We want to put a new spin on many aspects” of the show, Lili Zanuck said, with changes being reflected even in the set.
Asked to describe the new set, she joked, “It’ll be pink, because I’m a woman. That’s my contribution to this show.”
She is the first woman to produce the Academy Awards. “It’s a shame it took 72 Oscar shows, but maybe this is the tone of the new century.”
Richard Zanuck added that while his wife brings a woman’s perspective to the kudocast, “I bring a history,” since he’s attended for the last 50 years. “This awards ceremony is practically in my DNA.”
They hope to revive the long-dormant custom of heavy celeb attendance. Currently, “stars don’t come unless they’re nominated or presenters,” he said, but they plan to rectify that by tapping into the “Hollywood community spirit.”
“We’ve been going around trying to lay that guilt trip” on celebs, his wife deadpanned.
The duo said they “got a flurry” of phone calls after the announcement of their producing chores, with nine out of 10 calls questioning their sanity. Though they have won Oscars — the two as producers of “Driving Miss Daisy” and he as a Thalberg recipient — they acknowledged that they’ve never done anything like this.
Showmen and crew
Still, “We think of ourselves as showmen,” he said, “and we’re surrounded by a wonderful crew.” He cited director Louis J. Horvitz and exec producer Michael B. Seligman and said Oscar vets Bruce Vilanch and Chuck Workman this year are “assuming greater responsibilities.”
In his 10th Oscar outing, Vilanch will be head writer for the show. Workman, who has contributed film montages to 10 past Oscar shows, this year will be responsible for all the film images and clip packages.
The Zanucks then unveiled a snazzy Workman-made trailer touting the Oscar show, which will air on TV and be sent next week to exhibitors for screening in theaters. Included in the film cans will be a letter to projectionists, encouraging them “to put it on and get it up,” said Richard Z.
Sked set, but not pre-host
The 72nd Academy Awards will be held Sunday, March 26, at the Shrine. Preshow starts at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST, with kudocast a half hour later.
No host has been set for the Pre-show, which will feature interviews on the red carpet and backstage glimpses at the Shrine — “You’ll really feel you’re somewhat of an insider,” said Lili Z. — and, without an ad break, it will immediately segue to the ceremonies.
Asked about dance numbers, both rolled their eyes and grimaced and said they aren’t big fans of such segments. Finally they admitted that they’ve ruled out a dance number for the show — which drew applause from the media reps.