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Oscars rehearsals in full swing

This news story was published on February 24, 2012.
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By Rebecca Keegan, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES—Before the final touches to the hair and makeup and the red carpet wave comes another crucial rite of Oscar weekend — rehearsal.

Dozens of stars traveled to the Hollywood and Highland center Thursday and Friday to practice their roles in Sunday’s Academy Awards show, with the help of some very enthusiastic stand-ins.

Celebrities including Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Owen Wilson made the pilgrimage to Hollywood to brush up on such awards show skills as teleprompter reading, stage walking in heels and pronouncing tricky nominee names such as Asghar Farhadi, director of the Iranian film “A Separation.”

Other presenters, including Christian Bale, Halle Berry, Bradley Cooper, Michael Douglas, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep and the cast of “Bridesmaids” were expected at the venue formerly known as the Kodak Theatre before the end of rehearsals Saturday evening.

As a crew member showed Jolie how she’ll walk across the stage Sunday, the actress-director smiled at him. “You guys are used to actors, aren’t you?” Jolie said. “Wondering, ‘Where am I supposed to go?’”

While a montage of film clips played behind him, Cruise mouthed the names of the nominees to himself.

The Oscars set, designed to evoke an old movie house, hummed with crew practicing lighting cues and camera moves. The seats, marked with giant placards showing the faces of the stars who will occupy them Sunday, were filled by the stand-ins, many of whom had researched their “roles” for the week.

“Great speech!” Cruise said, to an actor playing Steven Spielberg for the afternoon.

Well muscled, leotard-clad acrobats from Cirque du Soleil, who will perform during the show, warmed up in the theater, some performing splits on the seats.

For the purposes of rehearsals, Miss Piggy was played by a petite woman with a knack for delivering her “mois.”

“Whoever is my Robert Downey Jr. and my Gwyneth Paltrow and my Chris Rock, I need you over here,” a voice boomed from stage right.

For the women, Oscar rehearsals are a place for anticipating fashion mishaps. “I’ve got a very big dress,” Cruz warned her co-presenter, who stepped to the side to accommodate the phantom gown.

“Working out girl problems here,” Diaz said to a patient crew, switching spots and tucking wisps of her blond bob over her ear. The problem? “Which side of my face my hair is gonna part down.”

When Diaz and her co-presenter improvised a coquettishly theatrical moment, producer Brian Grazer declared the move, “So cute!”

“Is that stupid? Nobody’s gonna hate us, right?” Diaz asked.

“No way!” a stand-in hollered from the audience. “You’ve gotta go for it!”

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