"I need a Bryan Cranston! I need a Matt Damon!" implores a stage manager as five Best Actor stand-ins hustle into orchestra seats adorned with black-and-white photos of the nominees and demarcating where the likes of Bryan, Leo and Eddie will sit during Sunday's show.
"Who's Leo?!" A congenial middle-age "DiCaprio" pipes up and waves from the front row. "You look JUST like him!" jokes the stage manager, drawing laughs from the stage crew and the few dozen people people peppering the Dolby.
While there's plenty of levity during Saturday morning rehearsals – when else can you hear Jared Leto riff on "merkins" or see Whoopi Goldberg wearing clogs decorated with kitty-cat faces? – not everything goes as planned. At one point, a large set-piece stage decoration crashes to the ground, scattering broken bulbs across the floor (cue immediate appearance of vacuums, brooms and more than one sweaty brow). At that, actor Kevin Hart, exiting the stage after rehearsing his presenter lines, deadpans upon assessing the damage, "Alright guys, my part was great though!"
And it was, including Hart's off-the-cuff line when surveying the orchestra for his Sunday show seat assignment: "Where am I sitting? I was going to say all the black people should be in the first row!"
The line, a nod to the #OscarsSoWhite diversity controversy, gets laughs.
Here are some other behind-the-scenes moments:
Adorable co-presenting duo (and Universal Studios pals) Jacob Tremblay and Beasts of No Nation star Abraham Attah practicing their presenter lines and holding makeshift Oscars – one a wooden statuette and the other a water bottle wrapped in yellow tape. Tremblay, in a blue short-sleeve Oxford and with his hands in his pockets, peeked at the "winner" name as Attah, spiffy in a blue suit and blue and white polka dot bow tie, opened the prop envelope.
Jared Leto and Margot Robbie, super casual in short white shorts, bare legs and a loose blonde braid, being silly and linking arms. At one point, Leto, in a knit cap, jeans and a shirt tied around his waist, pretends to drop the prop Oscar water bottle and feigns horror: "I'm sooo sorry!" Firing back playfully to Leto, the stand-in "winner", having reclaimed the fallen statuette, says: "A dented Oscar is still an Oscar!"
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Spotting his photo on an assigned seat in the orchestra, presenter Chris Evans, casual in a baseball cap and black tee, says from the stage, "I know that guy!" When his presenting partner starts reading from the prop card "And the winner is...", Evans pipes in "Meeeee!"
Patricia Arquette, in a grey dress, black heels and hair pulled into a bun, squinting through her glasses as she tries to master TelePrompTer and inquires about the size of the font.
Oscar nominee Cate Blanchett, relaxed in a black jump suit and silver sky-high heels, asks a few questions as she works on her stage blocking and practices where she'll stand: "Is it here? Did I stop at the right spot? ish?" Moving across the stage, she says, "I don't know if I can walk any slower than that!" And adds jokingly, "You can always re-cast!" Once she's hit her marks and is given the thumbs up, she waves to the orchestra and crew that's milling about, and says, "See you later!" And she's off.