Oscar Preview: Producers Adam Shankman & Bill Mechanic Drop Tidbits

This is it, the big day, or as they say, “Hollywood’s Biggest Night.” The 82nd Annual Academy Awards happens tonight live from the Kodak Theater on Hollywood Blvd, which happens to be in a giant fancy mall at the Hollywood & Highland complex, by the way. You can watch the Oscars and then take a couple of escalators and go buy skinny red pants at Hot Topic.

The show promises to be a little different this year, sporting a robust ten Best Picture contenders instead of the usual five, so when I got a chance to sit down with the producers, Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic, the first thing I had to ask is how they plan to profile all those nominees without adding to the length of the show. Mechanic’s response was simple. “It’s easy. We think that’s what people want to see. They want to see those pictures. They become the centerpieces of the show. It’s sort of like our biggest stars are those ten best pictures. To make the show go quick, we did other things. We put two hosts in so they can host and move us through the evening, and we cut things that people probably cared a little less about.” What did they cut? You’ll have to wait to see what the movie bloggers are complaining about after the show. At the suggestion of interpretive dance, Shankman joked “Interpretive dance has been replaced and the five directing nominees are going to dance battle for their Oscar.”

The dual hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, was another curious addition, but it turns out it was very practical. “We wanted the show to be funnier, first and foremost,” Mechanic said, “and we wanted more energy in the show, and we wanted hosts to actually be hosts and take us through the evening and not let it linger when we needed it to move quicker.”

Shankman also implied that it may have been necessary to get Martin back at all. “I actually called Steve and asked him to do it, and he was like ‘oh, god, you know I’ve done it,’ and then we said ‘do it with Alec’ and he was like ‘yes! I’m in!’ They are giant fans of each other and they riff on each other greatly. Honestly, I have to say – I know that this is going to sound silly and it’s throwing iconography out there – but they feel like Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin to me in a certain way, the way that they work off each other.”

Given the recent hullabaloo about The Hurt Locker and its producer Nicolas Chartier’s faux pas, one would think that they’d have to sneak in a riff about that somehow, but neither of the producers seemed to agree. “That has nothing to do with us. I think it’s an unfortunate incident. I’m actually doing a movie with Nicolas Chartier, and I know he didn’t mean to do anything wrong,” Mechanic said, joking “We don’t pick the films – otherwise, Up wouldn’t be in there and Coraline would.” Before you take that as a nasty insult, take a look at the producer credits for Coraline. It got a big laugh out of Shankman.

On a serious note, 2009 seemed to be such an unsettling year in terms of the sheer amount of celebrity deaths, one almost expects a world-record length for the In Memoriam segment this year. “There’s a lot of important people who have passed away, unfortunately,” Mechanic said. “I think it will be one of the highlights of the show. We looked at the final cut yesterday. I hate to say it, but it’s beautiful. Touching. I think it’s one of the best In Memoriams ever done.”

“It’s really beautiful, it’s very, very loving, and we selected an incredibly moving musical bed for it,” Shankman agreed, before making an observation with a mild tone of distaste. “You know, the strange thing is that they refer to it in the Oscar language as ‘the necrology section.'” As if it really needed to sound any more morbid.

Sigourney Weaver, who was there alongside Shankman and Mechanic, said it best, though: “it reminds us all to have fun now.” She was also mum on what her wardrobe choice was going to be when I asked if the producers were going to get her all dressed up like a Na’vi – or if she was at least going to wear a blue dress. She did, however, promise that even though she’s presenting Best Production Design, she’s going to faithfully read what’s on the envelope instead of just saying “Avatar.”

Check out this TV Guide preview of the show below, and get up to speed with my rundown of the Big 6 categories. The new word is they’re bringing back “And the winner is…” this year instead of the friendlier “And the Oscar goes to…” too, so there will definitely be losers this year!

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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