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HOLLYWOOD — Standing on the sidewalk on Jefferson Boulevard before the Shrine Auditorium, a hundred black limousines, along with the odd albino, disgorged both the famous and the well-connected to the sporadic cheers of onlookers.
A crowd of some 50 people had gathered to protest George W. Bush’s election. The group chanted, “Bush stole the election” and waved such placards as “Bush financed Hitler,” “Bush Killed Democracy,” “Dude, Where’s My Democracy” and “Illegitimate son of a Bush!”
Out on the red carpet, security was extremely tight, forcing some attendees to wait as long as 30 minutes just to get into the red-carpet area. The limousines were backed up along Jefferson.
“I just wanted to feel and look like a movie star,” said Marcia Gay Harden, who would win best supporting actress for her role in “Pollock.” She arrived on the red carpet in a strapless, dark-red dress with matching wrap.
Julia Roberts, whom many designers were hoping to dress, ended up opting for a vintage Valentino — a black gown with white straps forming a “Y” down the front. She matched beau Benjamin Bratt, who wore a black tux and white-on-white tie and shirt.
Joan Allen, nominated for best actress for “The Contender,” wore a sequined coral turtleneck halter gown designed by Michael Kors.
Allen, whose hair was in a bob, said it took “about five hours”‘ to achieve her simple yet elegant look.
Many of the men opted for traditional black-tie, including Sting, nominated for best original song for “My Funny Friend and Me” from “The Emperor’s New Groove.” He and his son arrived in matching Gucci tuxedos.
Throwing out tradition altogether was Joaquin Phoenix, nominated for best supporting actor for “Gladiator.” Phoenix walked down the red carpet chewing gum and clutching a bottle of water, white shirt untucked and hair uncombed. He and Benicio Del Toro, who went on to win the nod for best supporting actor, were playful with the crowd.
As the stars traversed the inside of the carpet where the paparazzi pulled them in for one interview or photo shoot after another, Hollywood’s execs shuffled in relatively unrecognized.
Interviewed by Daily Variety‘s Army Archerd, “You Can Count on Me” writer-director Kenny Lonergan said: “This story was just an idea I had about a brother and a sister who love tormenting each other.”
WGA negotiator John McLean said of a possible Writers Guild of America strike: “I am still working as hard as I can to make a deal, but it takes two to tango.”
Director Arthur Hiller said: “I truly hope it doesn’t happen. It changes day to day. All you can do is hope.”
Time Warner chairman-CEO Gerald Levin said he was “optimistic that it won’t happen.”
Across the street, Jesus Christ stood out, most notably because he was half-naked, but also because he was covered in stage blood. A few cops clad in wired helmets hovered nearby, vaguely amused, partly horrified.
“Nobody comes to the Oscar, except through me,” said Jesus, who, when pressed, confessed that he was one Seth Schultz, a SAG member. “It’s tough getting in,” said Schultz. “I told them I didn’t need a tux when I was in Bethlehem.”
Just a few steps away, a rather sweat-stained, pre-Lycra Superman posed for curious onlookers with a busty Marilyn Monroe with bunny-rabbit teeth.
“That’s why everyone is stopped here,” squealed actress Dena Moore, fixing her blonde Monroe wig, “because they can’t stop looking at me!”
Her statement easily could have been applied to many on Oscar’s red carpet. Superman nodded his agreement.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)