Oscar gets final polish before big show

Other News Materials 24 February 2008 22:11 (UTC +04:00)

( AP )- Will Meryl Streep's outfit match her talent? Will Diablo Cody actually refuse to wear those million-dollar , diamond-encrusted shoes? Will Katherine Heigl need to squint? The city was abuzz with all things Oscar as celebrities flocked from around the world for Sunday's Academy Awards ...

Oscar freshmen Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill were welcomed to the Kodak Theatre by sophomore Jon Stewart.

He jumped up and down on the side of the stage as the "Superbad" stars rehearsed for their Academy Awards debut on Saturday night. Stewart, who hosted the Oscars in 2006, rushed across the stage to greet them, then disappeared into the wings.

Wearing matching black horn-rimmed glasses, Rogen and Hill cracked jokes and scoped out their seats in the theater from the stage. Afterward, they met with Stewart in his dressing room.

"It's going to be so weird," Rogen told the show host. "It's so epic."

Stewart chatted with the pair before sending them on their way with a snack.

"Can I offer you a rugula?" he said.

Each actor took one of the cookie-like confections, then headed off.

Tim Gunn hopes Meryl Streep can make it work on the red carpet.

The "Project Runway" mentor suggested Streep wear something more flattering than last year when the actress, who was nominated for her part as a cutthroat fashion editor in "The Devil Wears Prada," donned a long black dress and was infamously draped in chunky coral and turquoise jewelry.

"I worry about Meryl," Gunn told the AP at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. "She's so smart. She's so talented. I felt so bad for her last year at this event. I had the highest expectations for her because of the role she was nominated for."

Gunn's most looking forward to seeing fashions on Cate Blanchett, Julie Christie, Angelina Jolie - and Helen Mirren, "the most stunning and ravishing woman on the red carpet" at last year's Oscars.

"If everyone follows current fashion trends, we should see a lot of jewel tones, black and ivory, and a little birdy told me we'll see lots of yellow on the red carpet," said Gunn. "But, boy, yellow is a difficult color. Very difficult."

Language and war may divide us, but catering troubles are universal.

Directors of the five Oscar-nominated films in the foreign-language category met Saturday, showing clips from their movies - little-seen so far in the U.S. - and talking over the joys and frustrations of international production.

Sergei Bodrov said his epic "Mongol," Kazakhstan's entry, was shot in Mongolia over the course of two years, with two separate cinematographers. The Russian crew of the film about a young Genghis Khan refused to eat the Chinese food they were served so workers drove 12 hours to pick up new meals, Bodrov said. His movie will be released by Picturehouse in the U.S. on June 6.

Nikita Mikhalkov, actor-director for Russia's entry, "12," recalled similar difficulties on the set of his Oscar-nominated 1992 film "Close to Eden."

"We had Chinese food and the Russians lost their minds," he said through a translator.

Fancy-footwear designer Stuart Weitzman chose Diablo Cody to wear his specially designed $1 million Retro Rose shoes on the red carpet, but the "Juno" screenwriter might leave the diamond-encrusted high heels off her feet Sunday. Cody's not completely thrilled, "now that I think about it."

"They're using me to publicize their stupid shoes and NOBODY ASKED ME," Cody wrote on her MySpace blog Friday. "I would never consent to a lame publicity stunt at a time when I already want to hide."

Weitzman wasn't at his Four Seasons Hotel shoe suite in Beverly Hills on Saturday afternoon while Taryn Cox, assistant to Scarlett Johansson (size 9), and "Today" show entertainment correspondent Jill Rappaport (size 10) browsed Weitzman's wares.

"I would expect she probably won't wear them. She made that very clear," Weitzman later told the AP about the shoe tussle during a telephone interview Saturday night. "If she decides not to wear the shoes, that's Diablo's decision, and I wouldn't try to convince her otherwise. It's Diablo's day, and she can do whatever she wants."

Weitzman says he made the cost of the metallic beige shoes - more than $2.5 million, including parts that were not used in the final pair - clear to Cody when he met with her. He blames Cody's behind-the-scenes team for not communicating the value of the shoes to the Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

"I'm just embarrassed that she wrote what she wrote," he said.

Even so, the designer says he wouldn't change his decision to give the ultra-expensive slippers to Cody.

Half a dozen A-list actresses stopped by the Kodak Theatre on Saturday to rehearse their Oscar lines.

Cameron Diaz, in a gray sweater, skinny black jeans and towering high heels, opened a prop winner's envelope and said, "The Oscar goes to - your mama. No, I'm just kidding."

She stepped off stage and bumped into Jessica Alba. "Hi, honey," Diaz said as she gave Alba a kiss.

Alba, who is expecting a baby with her fiance, Cash Warren, hid her growing bump under a loose black tunic. Ponytailed and makeup-free, the star recapped her presentation two weeks ago of the academy's annual Sci-Tech awards - always a tongue-twisting challenge.

"You nailed it, hon," stage manager Dency Nelson told her. As soon as she walked off stage, she traded her high heels for comfy flats.

Renee Zellweger arrived in a sweat shirt, jeans and sneakers, her oversized Gucci bag slung over her shoulder. Before taking the stage, she plunked her bag on the floor and fished out a pair of tall Christian Louboutin heels. She left her socks and sneakers in a pile near her purse as she stepped out to rehearse her lines.

After hitting her mark, she slipped off the stilettos and tossed them back into her bag, saying, "Well, that's enough of these things for today" to no one in particular.

Zellweger greeted Katherine Heigl, who was headed to the stage carrying two pairs of heels. But shoes weren't her problem - seeing the teleprompter was. Heigl narrowed her eyes as she tried to make out the words on the screen at the back of the theater.

"Oh, no," she said. "I'll try not to squint."

Also switching shoes was Jennifer Garner, who swapped her running shoes for high heels before stepping onstage. An assistant held her sneakers as Garner rehearsed.

Expectant mom Nicole Kidman didn't fuss with her shoes. Looking elegant enough to attend the awards a day early, she wore kitten heels with black tights, a black dress and a black overcoat that obscured her tummy. Her husband, Keith Urban, was also dressed all in black, from his ball cap down to his sneakers.

"Thank you for being here," a worker backstage said to the Oscar-winning actress.

"I'm so pleased," she said with a smile. "See you tomorrow."

Four of the five nominees vying for the foreign film Oscar are set in the past and revolve around war, with the Russian entry "12" the exception.

Inspired by Sidney Lumet's 1957 film "Twelve Angry Men," "12" depicts a jury deliberating over whether a young Chechen murdered his Russian stepfather.

"I just don't know how I even ended up here today," said director Nikita Mikhalkov, gesturing to the oversized Oscar statues decorating the theater where the motion picture academy was sponsoring a Saturday symposium on the foreign film nominess. "This is such a deeply Russian, personal, local story that I don't even understand."

Veteran Polish director Andrzej Wajda explained that his "Katyn," about the 1939 massacre of Polish military officers and intelligentsia in the titular forest, was intensely personal. His father, Jakub, a cavalry officer, was among the more than 15,000 killed by Soviet authorities.

But because Jakub Wajda's name never showed up on a list of the dead, he said, "My mother waited for my father my whole life ... (she) had forever hoped that one day he would return home."

Israel's entry "Beaufort" sparked a national controversy there because one-third of the actors - depicting soldiers during Israel's 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon - hadn't completed the country's mandatory three years of military service.

Director Joseph Cedar said that actually helped them more deeply depict war's effects on the psyche because veterans are prone to "getting used to something that is terrible and accepting it as normal."

Austria's entry, "The Counterfeiters," brings a fresh look at World War II concentration camps, using documentary-style handheld camera and quick zooms to tell of a master forger forced to work for Nazis.

Director Stefan Ruzowitzky said he got full cooperation from the real-life camp survivor on whom his main character is based, Adolph Burger, who was in the audience Saturday.

Sergei Bodrov said his epic "Mongol," Kazakhstan's entry, was shot in Mongolia over the course of two years, with two separate cinematographers.