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86 Facts You May Not Know From OscarWrap’s Behind-the-Scenes Guide

From rehearsal to backstage — all you need to know about the show, the statuettes, the red carpet and even the restrooms backstage at the Dolby Theatre


OscarWrap_0218_Down_Wire-2This story originally appeared in OscarWrap: Down to the Wire

The Statuettes

1. Oscar statuettes are shipped in styrofoam containers.

2. Once the statuettes are removed from the containers, the styrofoam is broken into pieces, so nobody can fish a makeshift Oscar mold out of the Dolby Theatre dumpster.

3. The Academy makes sure that enough Oscar statuettes are on hand to cover the most possible winners in every category. (For instance, if Gravity or Nebraska wins, they’ll need two Oscars for the two producers–but if 12 Years a Slave wins, they’ll need five.)

4. This year, the maximum number of Oscars that can be given out in all 24 categories, barring ties, is 70.

5. The minimum is 48.

6. Until recently, the statuettes typically sat on a Rubbermaid cart in the wings of the stage.

7. These days, they usually sit in a fancier enclosure.

8. The statuettes are watched over by an Academy employee wearing white gloves.

9. He wipes down each Oscar before handing it to the trophy presenter.

AMPAS10. When a winner receives an Oscar, the only fingerprints on the award should belong to the winner, the celebrity announcing the category and the trophy presenter (typically referred to as the “trophy girl,” though that’s not the official job title).

11. No trophy presenter is ever asked to carry more than
two Oscars at the same time. Additional presenters are enlisted in the case of more than two winners.

12. Nameplates for all potential winners are prepared ahead of time.

13. This year, that means 215 nameplates.

14. The ones bearing the names of losers are destroyed.

15. The winners’ nameplates are taken to a special station at the rear of the Governors Ball, where Oscar recipients can bring their statuettes to have their plates affixed.

See photos: OscarWrap: Behind the Scenes With Jennifer Lawrence and Adele

AMPASThe Envelopes

16. Working from two sets of cards listing every possible winner in every category, the two PricewaterhouseCoopers’ partners who lead the Oscar ballot team prepare and seal two sets of envelopes bearing the names of the winners.

17. They then destroy all the cards with the names of the nominees who didn’t win.

18. One PwC partner is stationed on each side of the stage; they maintain control of the envelopes until the moment when they hand them to the award’s presenter just before that person goes onstage.

19. The PwC reps also memorize all the winners, in the event
that something happens to the envelopes.

20. In the acting categories, the PwC reps memorize the names of the winning actors, and their films.

21. In all other categories, they simply memorize the names of the films.

22. The PricewaterhouseCoopers partners have strict instructions to walk onstage and stop the show if an incorrect winner is ever announced. (Sorry, Marisa Tomei conspiracy theorists.)

See photos: 28 Classic Movies That Never Won Best Picture Oscars – From ‘Raging Bull’ to ‘Chinatown’

AMPASThe Rehearsals

23. PwC also prepares five complete sets of envelopes, one with each possible winner, to use during rehearsals.

24. Where real Oscar envelopes have the line “THE OSCAR GOES TO…” along with the name of the winner, rehearsal envelopes say “THE OSCAR GOES TO, FOR THIS REHEARSAL ONLY…”

25. None of the Oscar staffers know which “winners” names are in any particular rehearsal envelope.

26. When stars show up to rehearse their lines (which typically happens the day before the Oscar show, sometimes called “star day”), they are asked to open a rehearsal envelope and read whatever “winner” is named inside.

27. Some celebrity presenters invariably balk at the idea of reading a real nominee’s name.

28. Before security and secrecy concerns caused a change of policy, a few hundred guests were invited to watch morning and afternoon rehearsals on “star day,” so that the celebrity presenters would receive a round of applause when they walked onstage.

29. Dummy Oscar statues made out of plaster are used during rehearsals.

30. The Oscar show has a full dress rehearsal (with the hosts and musical performers, but not the presenters) the night before the Oscars, and a second full- show run-through around noon the day of the show.

See photos: 17 Greatest Hollywood Unknowns to Win Oscar Gold – From Anna Paquin to Hilary Swank

AMPASThe Venue

31. The Dolby Theatre was built in an area originally meant to hold the parking garage for the Hollywood & Highland shopping center.

32. When the Academy asked for a theater, the site’s developers switched underground parking to make room for the theater.

33. The Dolby was known as the Kodak Theatre from its opening in 2001 until Feb. 2012, when Kodak filed for bankruptcy and ended its $75 million naming-rights deal.

34. The 84th Oscars, in 2012, were officially announced as coming from the Hollywood & Highland Center, without a theater name specified.

35. After the Oscars in 2012, Dolby signed a naming-rights deal and the theater was renamed.

36. So was the ballroom in which the Governors Ball takes place–formerly the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland, it is now the Ray Dolby Ballroom.

37. The Dolby is the tenth different venue in which the Oscars have been held, after the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Ambassador Hotel, the Biltmore Hotel, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Shrine Auditorium, the Academy Award Theater, the Pantages Theater, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

38. Three of those venues– the Hollywood Roosevelt, Grauman’s Chinese and the Dolby Theatre — occupy the same block of Hollywood Boulevard.

Also read: The Oscars’ ‘In Memoriam’ Problem: Who’ll Make the Cut?

AMPASThe Carpet

39. The Oscar red carpet is divided in half by a velvet rope.

40. Nominees go to the left, where they can talk to the press, while other guests are asked to stay to the right.

41. Guests who spend too much time watching the stars are sternly told to keep moving.

42. The move-along orders do not apply to the two guys from PwC who arrive with the envelopes in their matching briefcases. They can gawk all they want.

43. The majority of the red carpet is laid over the westbound lanes of Hollywood Boulevard,

which is closed down for several days around the Oscars.

44. If the street has any potholes or rough spots, they are filled with sand before the carpet is laid.

45. If there is any chance of rain in the days leading up to the Oscar show, a canopy is erected over the red carpet on the theory that it’s easier and faster to take down a canopy than to put one up.

46. The final stretch of carpet runs through the Hollywood & Highland shopping center, past a number of storefronts.

47. Oscar guests never see any of those storefronts, because red drapes are used to hide the shops from view.

48. The drapes are hung from hidden curtain rods built into every storefront.

49. Pillars on either side of the red carpet bear the names of every Oscar Best Picture winner, and have room to keep adding new winners through 2071.

50. Stores in the Hollywood
& Highland Center are not permitted to open on the day of the Oscars.

Also read: Ranking Oscar Best Picture Nominees as Investments: Which Film Made Back the Most Money?

The Crew

51. The Oscar crew typically includes as many as a dozen writers, five associate directors, as many as 20 stage managers, more than 20 camera operators, more than two dozen editors, all part of a team that numbers well into the hundreds.

52. Every person who works on the show, including those who will remain far from the cameras on Oscar night, must wear formal attire.

53. A “tuxedo bank” supplies the formal wear to crew members.

54. Most of the people who work on the show are not invited to any AMPAS or studio Oscar parties.

The Seats

55. Every nominee officially gets two seats to the Oscar show.

56. Negotiations take place that result in some nominees receiving more than two.

57. Nominees in the lower- visibility categories are typically seated near each other, so one or two camera crews can cover all potential winners.

58. In the acting categories, though, nominees are spread out, and a different camera crew assigned to each one.

59. Other seating assignments are also made with specific camera shots in mind–for instance, directors and actors are frequently seated where other potential winners from that movie will pass on them the way to the stage.

60. The seat cards used to indicate nominee, presenters and stars seats during rehearsal are always prepared with photos of the stars in real life, not in their movie roles.

61. If you see a person you don’t recognize in a reaction shot on the Oscar show, that usually means they’re an Academy official or the wife of the show’s director.

Also read: Oscar Nominees Ranked by Box Office Clout: The Highest and Lowest Grossing Contenders

AMPASThe Wings

62. The stage-right wings of
the Dolby stage are used for most presenter entrances, while stage left is generally used for the host.

63. Stage right is far more spacious and accessible.

64. Stage left is tiny, cramped and hard to negotiate.

65. The green room is not an actual room 51 weeks out of the year. It is simply an open area
in the wings of the Dolby stage that is turned into a hospitality room through the use of temporary walls and lots of Architectural Digest’s money.

66. Winners exit the Dolby stage right, but the passage to the press rooms in the adjoining Loews Hollywood Hotel is on the far side of the stage, through a narrow passageway.

67. What was once a very nondescript hallway leading from the Dolby to the press rooms has been named “Winners’ Walk” and decorated with framed photos of past Oscar winners.

The Control Room

68. Although the Dolby was built with the Oscars in mind, the show’s director works from a high-tech command trailer parked on the loading dock.

69. The show’s producer (or one of the producers, in a year with more than one) generally sits behind the director in the command trailer.

70. From there, the producer has ultimate authority to order the orchestra to start the music that interrupts long speeches, though the director gives the order.

71. If the producer is for some reason not in the command trailer, the director cues play-off music.

The Offices

72. Only the show’s producer, director, writers, supervising producer and host get offices or dressing rooms on the theater’s stage level.

73. Everybody else, including performers and stars who demand dressing rooms for pre- show touchups, has space down a long flight of stairs (or a slow elevator).

74. But makeup tables by the green room and in the wings of the stage are always available for luminaries with shiny foreheads or saggy coifs.

The Restrooms

75. There are only two backstage restrooms on the stage level of the Dolby Theatre.

76. Each of the coed restrooms can only accommodate one person at a time.

77. The lines are often long.

78. And star-studded.

The Traffic

79. During the show, stars who are presenting awards are typically brought backstage one full commercial break before the break that precedes their award.

80. Talent escorts include pages who work for ABC, stage managers designated to work with talent and publicists who volunteer for Oscar escort duty.

81. Seat fillers, who dash into all empty seats in the first 20 rows at every commercial break, receive special training in a crouching walk designed to get them into empty seats without stepping on celebrity toes or putting a rear end in anybody’s face.

82. The seat-filler crew includes spotters, who locate the empty seats; runners, who hustle seat- fillers into position; and sitters, who do the actually seat-filling.

83. They are instructed not to speak to celebrities unless spoken to.

The Bar

84. Drinks are free at the Dolby Theatre bars before the show starts–but once it begins, you have to pay for your alcohol.

85. This does not stop the bar from being very crowded as the show goes on.

86. In fact, the bar in the lower lobby is always the best place to find the nominees who didn’t win in whatever categories were presented before the last commercial break.