Tom Cruise's appearance as the presenter of the best director Oscar on Sunday night was kept under such tight wraps that not even members of the production staff were aware that the star, 38, would appear, reports Variety. Cruise never showed up for a rehearsal, and the event's script, says the trade paper, was written in such a way that another star could have stepped into the role had Cruise turned out to be a no-show. As it turned out, Variety notes, Cruise arrived on time (but without a necktie) and then made a swift departure, so as to avoid the army of press people who no doubt would have asked him about his recent divorce filing from his wife of 10 years, Nicole Kidman. In other Oscar news, the ratings stunk, and this could turn out to be the lowest-rated Oscarcast ever. About 42.9 million viewers across the nation watched the show, compared with 46.3 million last year. This figure is based on preliminary ratings taken from major metropolitan markets, where HBO's "The Sopranos" (which had a new episode Sunday) is particularly strong. And, finally, the winner of the shortest acceptance speech competition, and therefore the recipient of a $2,000 high-definition TV from Oscar show producer Gil Cates, was NOT Julia Roberts. Her windy speech was three minutes, 41 seconds according to one count. No, the lucky guy is Michael Dudok De Wit, winner of the best animated short Oscar, reports L.A.'s Daily News. He said his thank-yous in something like 15 seconds. Tuesday morning on the "Today" show, De Wit said he would donate the TV to a children's charity.
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