The Oscar 11: Team Aims to Revive Awards' Telecast

On Oscar night, there is one goal: Steal your attention.

And if Hollywood has demonstrated anything, it's that it takes a team to pull off a successful heist.

The Academy Awards are suffering; ratings plunged to 32 million last year. A massive reworking of the Sunday telecast (ABC, 8 p.m. ET/5PT) has been launched — much of it still under a cloak of secrecy.

This much is clear: The people behind the show this year are trying something very different. Without revealing specific details, the ceremony will have a narrative, unfolding like a play in which awards are given as part of the plot. Some of the industry's biggest stars (many of them aimed at younger fans) drop in for guest roles, but the producers have tried to keep them hush-hush, going so far as to sneak some in through the Kodak Theatre's loading dock.

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But the overall objective remains unchanged: Sneak into living rooms across America, seize the attention of movie fans, and take off with it.

Backstage, it's similar to the spirit of great teamwork movies from the past, "The Dirty Dozen," "Reservoir Dogs," or "Ocean's Eleven." Each member of the gang has a field of expertise, a specific assignment, and they all depend on one another to pull it off.

Here's a look at what could be called Oscar's 11.

The Ringleaders: Bill Condon and Laurence Mark

Assignments: Executive producer and producer

"It's time to shake it up a little bit, isn't it?" Mark says.

Dreamgirls was their big hit together: Condon directed, Mark produced.

Condon loves old Hollywood, as evidenced by "Dreamgirls" and "Gods and Monsters," his biopic about Frankenstein director James Whale. Mark is a producer of sophisticated crowd-pleasers, such as "Jerry Maguire" and "As Good As It Gets."

This is their first time overseeing the Oscars, and they are the masterminds of the plan to craft it as a combination vaudeville show and nightclub — where 24 awards just happen to be dispensed.

"We often talk about the odd hybrid that the show is," Condon says. "It is a live theater performance that is celebrating movies that is broadcast to millions of viewers."

Another goal is to honor all of the movies of 2008, including pop hits (say, "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight") that aren't among the top honorees.

Mark and Condon are also the force behind this year's riskiest move: not revealing the presenters. In past years, celebrity presenters were released bit by bit like a trail of glittery bread crumbs to lead viewers to the show.

"Somehow, to give away the entire show before you've seen the show runs the risk of being reason not to tune in," Mark says. "Why would I want to give out the entire plot before you see it?"

Adds Condon, conceding a few leaks: "Some of these things are going to be known. But we'll have kept at least, for every act, a secret or two where somebody comes out and surprises.

"And isn't that why we keep watching movies, because you want to know what happens next?"

The Faceman: Hugh Jackman

Assignment: Host

The star of "X-Men" and "The Prestige" (and People magazine's current Sexiest Man Alive) will be calling on his Broadway background as emcee.

It's his first time as Oscar host, and he's the first non-comedian to take the job solo since Jack Lemmon in 1985.

"In the opening, I can tell you right now, I'm not going to be knocking out a seven-minute stand-up monologue," Jackman says. "It's not really my bag anyway. But hopefully there'll be a few laughs."

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