Oscars 2007: Behind-the-Scenes Preparations

Feb. 15, 2007 — -- Estimated number of global viewers … several 100 million.

Number of countries watching … 106.

Number of high-definition cameras at the telecast … 34.

Lights, camera … Oscars!

The 79th annual Academy Awards, set to air on ABC Sunday, Feb. 25, is a massive and expensive undertaking, with preparations that begin more than a year in advance.

The total cost of the Oscars is a whopping $30 million. The hefty price tag includes the balloting process, membership screenings, pre-Oscar events in Los Angeles and New York, production costs, the nomination announcements, the nominees' luncheon, the science and technology awards dinner, the governor's ball -- and the list goes on.

It's all in the details for the biggest night in Hollywood, and the conductor at the helm for the second time is accomplished producer Laura Ziskin. The woman calling the shots has produced such hits as "Spiderman," "As Good as It Gets" and "Pretty Woman."

Ziskin tells ABC News, "the theme is to really focus on the nominees -- 'The Road to the Oscars.' Who these people are and how they got there. We looked at a lot of Oscar shows from the past and decided we wanted to be glamorous and not high-tech -- more a throwback to old Hollywood, with beautiful fabrics and lighting and textures."

A more modern approach, though, was taken by Ziskin for the host of the show. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres will have the honor of making the world laugh this year.

Ziskin says DeGeneres was an easy choice. "I had seen her do the Emmys live in 2002, right after 9/11, and thought she was spectacular -- and [thought] if I ever did the show again, I would go to her. Ellen is going to be different than any host we have had in the past -- more entertaining and more involved and engaged with what happens, live. There is a lot, really a lot, of entertainment planned."

After the host is chosen, generating buzz in the days and months leading up to the Oscars is also a huge undertaking.

Teni Melidonian, publicist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, tells ABC News, "this year's marketing campaign is rooted in the spoken word -- the unforgettable movie lines that have infiltrated pop culture and our everyday dialogue. We've got a terrific campaign which features dozens and dozens of the most memorable, and used, movie quotes.

"'Stella!' 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' 'Snap out of it!' 'You had me at hello.' This campaign celebrates the movies. The Oscars celebrate our love of movies," Melidonian says. "The public will see the quote campaign around town, online, on TV and on mobile devices. It's a great way to remind us that some of our favorite lines come from the movies."

Alongside the campaign, the Academy team slowly releases details of the show to the public. The road to Oscar gold kicked off on Jan. 23, with the nomination announcements made by Academy president Sid Ganis and past Oscar nominee Salma Hayek, who couldn't help but cheer for best friend Penelope Cruz, who's nominated for best actress for "Volver."

Many were also cheering for one best supporting actress nominee in particular. "American Idol" finalist and "Dreamgirls" star Jennifer Hudson has become America's favorite underdog.

Hudson spoke to ABC News about her nomination and the award season. "It never occurred to me, not one time, that I wanted to be a part of the awards season. To have won a Golden Globe and be an Oscar nominee … I laugh at it all the time … I cannot believe this. A real dream never dies. I don't know, maybe God told me it was something in store for me. I knew it was something, because I dreamed up a dream my whole life, and I knew 'American Idol' wasn't it. I just kept going."

Who will actually get to say, "and the winner is…" is decided by Ziskin herself. George Clooney, Cameron Diaz and Hugh Jackman are among the Oscar presenters she's selected this year.

But ultimately, it's the 5,380 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who decide who takes home the 8 1/2-pound gold-plated britannium statuette.

Ziskin says, "most importantly, it is an incredible horse race this year with no certainty in most of the categories."

Hudson says she knows she's up against some tough competition, but she believes anything is possible.

"Two to three years ago, we'd never have guessed I'd be here today," she says. "'Just go for it. You have nothing to lose. There definitely are similarities between Effie and myself, like her journey with the Dreams, and my journey through 'American Idol.' … Both of us going against all odds and just trying to pursue our goals and dreams and prevailing in the end."

The members return their ballots by Tuesday, Feb. 20, and the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers will place the winners' names in guarded, sealed envelopes.

Melidonian explains how chaos is avoided on Oscar night. "Preparing for the Academy Awards requires that everyone working on the show, on the red carpet, backstage, in the press rooms, in the governor's ball knows the process -- where to be and what to do. There are many production and logistics meetings, many site walk-throughs, and many rehearsals."

The big day starts with the hectic 500-foot-long red carpet. More than 3,000 journalists will be reporting from Hollywood and Highland. ABC entertainment reporter George Pennacchio tells ABC News, "I work for months so I'm ready for Oscar Sunday. The big challenge is the sudden surge of celebrities arriving on the red carpet.

"We have the first interview position on the carpet and as those famous faces come our way, I try to keep the flow going -- graciously saying goodbye to one star so we can say hello to another," he says. "It's a delicate dance, but over the years I think I've figured out the steps."

Pennachio described the red carpet. "[It's] loud and it's crowded, exciting and almost overwhelming. On that day, your job is to wrangle the biggest stars in Hollywood, and it's especially important to get those key nominees on your air live. It's also a great day for celebration, so almost everyone looks fantastic and arrives in the best of moods."

On Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. ET, the curtains finally open at the Kodak Theater.

Just how long is a winner supposed to take to thank fans, managers, family, friends and the huge team it takes to make a star? The suggested time is 45 seconds, but we all know some celebrities can go on just a little too long, prompting the band to gently play.

In 2000, Julia Roberts commented on the 45-second rule during her acceptance speech for best actress. "I'm so happy, thank you. A girl's got to have her moment. Everybody tries to get me to shut up. It didn't work with my parents and it didn't work now."

Melidonian says, "it's the winner's moment. It's their moment to express their thoughts and feelings. We encourage them to be interesting and heartfelt. The winners do have the opportunity to post additional comments and thank-yous on Oscar.com."

From Halle Berry's emotional outburst in 2002, to an aging Jack Palance demonstrating his eternal youth by performing one-armed pushups onstage in 1991, to Roberto Benigni's chair-topping experience in 1999, the Oscar show is sure to wow the world once again this year with its memorable moments.

Ziskin says her favorite part of this year's show hasn't happened yet. It's "watching people's reactions when they receive the Oscar. And like everyone else, I love to see what the stars are wearing!"

Good luck, everybody!