The most-watched telecast in the world is also one of the hardest to rehearse. Not knowing who’s going to win, or even who’s going to show up, makes it next to impossible for director Jeff Margolis to plan the best audience shots. But that doesn’t stop him from trying. He decides where each nominee will sit, putting the biggies in the first 15 rows. The Friday before the broadcast, placards with life-size head shots of the stars are placed on their seats so Margolis’ 14 camera operators can practice finding them on a millisecond’s notice.
When Mercedes Ruehl won Best Supporting Actress last year for The Fisher King, a camera was prepared to focus on the film’s star, Robin Williams, for his reaction. But there’s always some scrambling, as when Jodie Foster won Best Actress for The Silence of the Lambs. ”Anthony Hopkins was backstage, so we couldn’t shoot him,” says Margolis, who cut instead to Richard Gere — then working with Foster on Sommersby — for a smile. It may even have been history-making — the only time Gere and Hopkins competed for the same role.