Oscar excitement builds outside Kodak Theatre

Sun Feb 24, 2008 5:01pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After months of fretting over whether this year's Oscars would happen, movie fans lined the red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre on Sunday to watch George Clooney, Johnny Depp and other stars stroll into the world's top film honors.

Having hired America's leading political satirist, Jon Stewart, as master of ceremonies in the midst of a presidential campaign, organizers hope to spice up Hollywood's big night with jokes that will be repeated around the office water cooler on Monday.

Oscar producer Gil Cates has promised a ceremony filled with big stars including Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Broadway songstress Kristin Chenoweth and teen idol Miley Cyrus to cheer the crowd.

But this Academy Awards season has been a trouble-filled one as a three-month screenwriters strike, which ended earlier this month, caused other awards shows to be canceled or drastically curtailed.

With the Oscars show set to go on, the mood outside the Kodak Theatre was upbeat and not even morning showers in normally sunny Los Angeles could keep some 600 people from filling seats hours before the evening ceremony to watch the parade of stars.

"It's invigorating," Kyle Wilson of San Diego -- a member of the rowdy "bleacher creatures" -- said of the rain.

Tara Lara was in the grandstands to see two things: the glitzy fashion on the red carpet and Depp, nominated for best actor for his role as a serial killer in the musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

"I loved 'Sweeney Todd,"' she said. "It was the best musical ever."   Continued...

<p>Actress Rene Zellweger arrives at the 80th annual Academy Awards, the Oscars, in Hollywood, February 24, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>