Watched the nominations this morning? Here's a great account of Sid Ganis' pre-dawn preparation for the big news, a behind-the-scenes look at how Oscar readies for the world ...
By SANDY COHEN
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — While most of Los Angeles was asleep early Tuesday, Sid Ganis was getting ready for the big show.
He awoke effortlessly at 3 a.m. — ‘‘Bam! No alarm.’’ — and put on the khaki slacks, blue shirt and navy sports-jacket he decided on days earlier.
As president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Ganis steps into an internationally televised spotlight on Oscar-nominations morning, if only for a few minutes.
‘‘Oh, my gosh, it’s a thrill,’’ says the 67-year-old movie producer. ‘‘It’s almost like, ‘Who, me?' ’’
This is Ganis’ second term as president and his second trip to the big show, but his face registers all the excitement of a first-timer. He wears a permanent grin from the moment he arrives at the academy offices at 4 a.m.
He’s greeted by computer-printed signs hanging on every wall: ‘‘No cell phones. No Blackberries. All communication with the outside world is prohibited until 5:38 a.m.’’
Ganis steps into a conference room, puts on his glasses and takes a look at the list the entertainment world is waiting for: the nominees for the 79th Academy Awards.
He ‘‘hmms’’ and ‘‘ohs’’ to himself. The perma-grin grows.
‘‘This is cool,’’ Ganis says. ‘‘The president is having the greatest time enjoying this stuff.’’
With about an hour to go before show time, he pokes around the building, visiting some of the 75 workers who spend the night locked into the offices. The night before nominations are announced, no one is allowed in or out of academy headquarters after 9 p.m.
Accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers, who cull the nominees from top-secret tallies, are among the overnight guests. There are also people preparing press releases, historians providing facts and figures on the nominees, programmers updating the Oscar Web site and technical workers making the morning television-ready. The academy’s executive director Bruce Davis and administrator Ric Robertson also spend nominations eve locked down, as they have for decades.
Ganis puts his feet up and munches on a banana as he rehearses the list of names. Robertson coaches him on his pronunciation.
‘‘Who says you know them all,’’ Ganis jokes.
He practices the names again.
Mid-rehearsal, Ganis is joined by Laura Ziskin, producer of this year’s Academy Awards telecast, and Mike Seligman, an associate producer with 30 years of Oscar experience. They share a quick confab in quiet tones, then Ganis goes back to work.
His wife, Nancy, arrives, clutching a paper coffee cup. She follows her husband into the ladies bathroom, where a makeup artist dusts his face with powder. Of course she asks, but Ganis won’t reveal anything about the soon-to-be-announced nominees.
‘‘Even my wife, who I love more than anything in the history of the universe, I can’t tell you anything,’’ he says.
With less than 10 minutes until the live broadcast, Ganis and his co-presenter, Salma Hayek, share an elevator to the academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
‘‘This is a lot of fuss for four minutes,’’ he says, noting the brief length of the big show.
It’s actually a small show when compared to the nominations announcements for some other awards programs, but that’s intentional, Ganis says. Splashier presentations — even a prime-time special — have been considered, but ‘‘we want to keep the focus on the nominees,’’ he says.
With the announcements moments away, the theater bustles with photographers, reporters and TV crews from 400 media outlets.
A parade that includes Robertson, Seligman, three bodyguards, two reporters and a publicist follows Ganis and Hayek, who hide themselves away in the wings, stage right.
A booming voices comes over the loudspeaker: ‘‘Three minutes. Three minutes to air everybody. Three minutes.’’
A hush falls over the room.
Soon enough, the booming voice returns: ‘‘10, 9, 8, 7, 6 ....’’
‘‘Good morning everyone,’’ Ganis starts the show.