Organizers promise new tricks for Oscar ceremony

Mon Feb 2, 2009 8:25pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar organizers on Monday warned nominees for the world's top film awards to keep on their toes during a more than three-hour ceremony later this month that will break with tradition.

The producers "are going to take some risks, many risks, some bold," Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said at the annual luncheon given by the academy for Oscar nominees.

Producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon are organizing their first Academy Awards telecast, set to take place on February 22 from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. But Mark and Condon have never produced the show before. They are best known for making musicals such as 2006 film "Dreamgirls."

Instead of hiring a comedian to host the Oscars, as has been typical of Oscars past, they brought in Australian actor and song-and-dance man Hugh Jackman, and they have axed the famous opening monologue hoping for more spontaneity.

In December when Jackman was announced as host, Mark told Reuters that he and Condon want the telecast "to be more of a party and a celebration," but he declined to disclose details.

On Monday, Ganis was no less coy at the luncheon for more than 100 nominees, including stars such as Sean Penn and Penelope Cruz who are nominated for best actor and supporting actress in "Milk" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" respectively.

Ganis would not tell them what to say or do if they were one of the lucky winners. He advised that acceptance speeches "be brief, be personal and, of course, be heartfelt." And he added this final warning when explaining Condon and Mark had a few tricks up their sleeve: "stay alert."

Oscar organizers could use some risk-taking to turn around declining viewership. The 2008 broadcast, hosted by comedian Jon Stewart, hit a record low of 32 million U.S. viewers compared to 39.9 million in 2007.   Continued...

<p>Oscar statues wait to be finished at R.S. Owen &amp; Co. in Chicago, Illinois, January 27, 2009. REUTERS/Frank Polich</p>