Tom Sherak: 10 Best-Pic Nominees Will Likely Continue

Academy president says experiment is working “so far,” but wants to bring foreign films and docs into the mix

It should come as no surprise given how generally well-received the Best Picture lineup has been, but the move to 10 nominees will likely continue for another year, Academy president Tom Sherak said on Wednesday.  Some changes, he added, might be made in an attempt to broaden the field.

Speaking in his office after the morning mailing of final Oscar ballots, the first-term AMPAS president said that the Academy was happy with the results of the expanded field … for now.

“I don’t know if it’s a success yet,” he said. “But so far, yes, we’re happy. I don’t think there’s any question about that.  So far.  And I expect we’ll do it for another year.”

Tom SherakHe laughed. “Some people have said, ‘Well, they got lucky.’ I love that comment. In fact, the voters gave us everything we were hoping for when we made the change, except a foreign film or a documentary.”

On that count, Sherak says he’s determined to find a way to get those films into the Best Picture race, and to increase their visibility. 

“There are things in the works to address that,” he said. “I don’t know how much I can achieve, but I’m going to keep working on it.”   

One key to the Oscar show, he said, is getting viewers “invested in these movies – the big ones and the little ones. So how do you get something from Peru into Des Moines? We have to work on that.” 

Sherak also addressed the show itself. Among his notes:

  • You won't see him on the stage of the Kodak Theater giving a presidential address. “This is not about me coming out and welcoming the world,” he said. “Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin can do that. I’ll be there as the number one cheerleader.” (Another reason he won’t be onstage, he admitted, is that producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman haven’t asked him.)
  • Some footage from November’s well-received Governors Awards ceremony will be featured on the Oscar show.
  • The orchestra level of the Kodak Theater will be reconfigured into the same semi-circular seating plan that was installed for last year’s show.
  • You’ll see the inside of the theater more than usual. 
  • There will be dancing, but it won’t dominate.  “People have been writing that Adam Shankman will have dancing all over the show,” he says. “Is there going to be some dancing? Yeah. There always is. But not all over.”
  • The target running time: three hours. Of course, an Oscar show hasn’t been that short in decades, so he’s allowing that it might be more like 3:10 or 3:15 instead. “They’ve come up with some innovative things to cut down on the time,” he says of the new producers. (After closely observing the last 17 Oscar shows, I can attest to two things: new producers always say they’re going to keep the show short, and they always fail because they have lots of ideas and try to cram them all in.Maybe Shankman and Mechanic will be different, but a three hour and 15 minute Oscar show is close to unachievable if you try to do anything other than hand out the awards.)
  • It’ll be relaxed – at least the part involving the hosts will. “They’re like Martin and Lewis, the way they play off each other,” he says. “They’re very comfortable with what they’re doing, and I think you’re going to feel very comfortable watching them.”
  • It won’t be 3D, but the idea is to create an immersive atmosphere not unlike a certain Best Picture hopeful.  “We want you to be inside the show,” he says, “rather than sitting outside watching.” 

At least, those are the things he’s hoping for. “I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Sherak said, “my legs crossed, my toes crossed … ”

(AMPAS photo by Buck Wawrychuk)