Countdown to Oscars

GOOD MORNING: Comedy and drama were on and offstage at the Shrine on Thursday afternoon, with preparations under way for Sunday’s Oscars. Outside, across from my podium and above the bleachers, a tall scaffolding holding a net that’s to serve as a sunscreen was suddenly toppled by wind. Five workers were initially reported to me as injured with fractures, one critical. Inside, show producer Gil Cates and TV director Louis J. Horvitz expressed shock to me, saying they were thankful there weren’t more serious injuries … Onstage, Steve Martin was going through his first rehearsal; I asked Cates about him. “He’s very funny, very Johnny Carson-like,” he told me, “and very elegant!” I had also talked with an enthusiastic Horvitz on plans for the show, which he promises will have a unique opening in its filmed (taped) sequence leading into Martin’s first appearance. The seg is created by Mike Shapiro utilizing the newest, most sophisticated technology. Horvitz says the A-Com edit system, developed in only the past three weeks, will make him capable of recording and editing simultaneously — enabling him to re-show any memorable moments seen during the program, or at a last moment on the red carpet. He’ll also have six camera cranes on the beautiful, three-dimensional Oscar sets, designed by Roy Christopher … Bob Dylan will be the final song performer, via satellite from Australia; he will stand by briefly as Jennifer Lopez recaps the nominees and then opens the envelope to announces the winner … Horvitz appreciates “the complexity” of the nominees, saying the “internationality will make it a great show.”

IT WILL BE A REUNION at the Oscars,” says Hans Zimmer, nominated for his score of “Gladiator.” He is now musicking another giant, “Pearl Harbor,” and admits, “I should be working (on it) Sunday, but all of my musicians are playing the Oscars!” He is lucky dubbing doesn’t start on the WWII epic until Wednesday. Zimmer, who won the Oscar for “The Lion King,” says “Gladiator” music was a challenge, “because we had to invent a language long dead.” He noted he also had to live up to the high standard set by Alex North with his score for “Spartacus.” Asked whether he’d have as much “big” music in “Pearl Harbor,” Zimmer said, ” ‘Gladiator” was really not that noisy” and insists, “Music allows the director to be more poetic.” He’s currently doing that in “Pearl Harbor’s” big love scene now … Michael Caine, last year’s Oscar winner for supporting actor (“The Cider House Rules”), will not be able to make the presentation to this year’s supporting actress. He’s just leaving the Hanoi Hilton location of “The Quiet American” en route to further filming in Sydney, where, he says he’ll watch the Oscars Monday afternoon. (They’re 19 hours ahead.) … Another interested viewer will be Mother Dolores, at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn. She’s Dolores Hart, who departed the fame and fortune of Hollywood on June 13, 1963, to become a nun. I have been in phone conversations over the years and she has been in contact with the biz, reading the column on Variety‘s Web site. She also is a member of the Academy and has received the Oscar tapes. However, she asked for her voting privileges to be rescinded in the mid-’70s when she could not see the movies, and before tapes became available to members. She has now asked to be a voting member again next year. She says the Academy “is the best organization to belong to.” I asked if she voted today who would be her choices. Pic: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”; actor-actress: “Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts.” Dolores is the subject of a Bob Brown interview on ABC’s “20/20” tonight. I asked her if she has any apprehension about doing the tape in the Abbey; the seg shows her Hollywood history, including scenes costarring with Elvis in “Loving You,” directed by Hal Kanter. Her answer, “No, I had a good feeling about it.” As for the feelings of the nuns in the Abbey who are also shown on camera: “They were very helpful in supporting me in what was important in my life.” Hart (62) is making progress in her battle vs. peripheral neuropathy.

THE CAMPAIGN CONTINUES: Ronald Winston, chairman of Harry Winston, in London told me about one of their jewels making its bow Oscar night: a diamond necklace called “au Chocolat.” He told me “I worked on it personally.” In case you’re thinking of purchasing it, it’s white diamonds in a leaf motif with nine huge chocolate (brown) diamonds and 18 canary-yellow ones. Who’ll wear it? Of course they’d like Juliet Binoche … Not to be outshone, Chopard, cohosting the Elton John Foundation Oscar party at Moomba with In Style magazine, is also hosting a VIP suite in the Four Seasons in BevHills to preview its collections for stars and stylists for the Oscars … Many of the Oscar show’s males, including Steve Martin and Russell Crowe, are being tuxed at Armani in BevHills … While Red Ribbons will remind all to support AmFAR’s fight against AIDS, those wearing white ribbons will be protesting the continued destruction of Buddhas in Afghanistan … The Film Foundation viewing party in the Crystal Room of the BevHills hotel will boast 214 stars, including Peter Fonda and daughter Bridget with Dwight Yoakum … And the Oscar gala at Schatzi on Main benefits Planet Hope, founded by Sharon Stone and Kelly Stone … See you at/from the Oscars, Sunday.

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