Nominees will be asked to share personal stories in a show set to make extensive use of interviews.
The 93rd Academy Awards that will take place on April 25 will have the look and feel of a movie giving winners more time to prepare speeches, while coronavirus masks will play a major role, according to the show producer.
The coronavirus pandemic and a trio of new producers have led to a reinvention of the traditional show where the world’s highest movie honours are handed out before a seated theatre audience of more than 4,000 A-list stars and industry executives.
The ceremony will take place amid the “physical grandeur” of Los Angeles’s cavernous Union Station, with nominees mingling outdoors and then rotated in and out of the venue during the show.
“It’s not going to be like anything that’s been done before,” director Steven Soderbergh, who is producing the show with Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, said in a news conference.
Soderbergh, who directed the 2011 movie Contagion, said the pandemic had “opened up an opportunity to try something that hasn’t been tried.”
“We want the show to have a voice,” he added.
Soderbergh said the ceremony would be shot like a movie, with presenters including Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford and Halle Berry “playing themselves, or at least a version of themselves.” Speeches by Oscar winners were previously limited to around 45 seconds. This year, Soderbergh said, “we’re giving them space. We’ve encouraged them to tell a story, and to say something personal.” The producers said strict testing and Covid-19 protocols would be in place, much of them following standards developed last year to get movie and TV production running again.
The traditional red carpet will be dramatically downsized, and the guest list will be so limited that even powerful Disney boss Bob Iger “won’t be there”, said Soderbergh.
Speaking from the venue’s courtyard – where only nominees, their plus-ones and a handful of presenters will chat and drink – Soderbergh said he hopes the Oscars will present the world “a glimpse of what’s going to be possible when most people are vaccinated, and rapid, accurate, cheap testing is the norm”.
Soderbergh and fellow producers are keeping many details under wraps, but said the unusual and “hopefully unique” nature of a pandemic-era Oscars “certainly opened up an opportunity to try some things that haven’t been tried before”.
The ceremony will have “the aesthetic of a film as opposed to a TV show,” including the use of movie-like “over-the-shoulder shots from within the audience” and high-resolution, widescreen formats, said Soderbergh.
Asked about masks at the ceremony, Soderbergh gave what he called a deliberately cryptic reply.
“Masks are going to play a very important role in the story,” he said. “That topic is very central to the narrative.” Nominees unable to travel to Los Angeles for the ceremony will be able to take part via satellite hookups from venues around the world but there will be no Zoom appearances.
The ceremony will be preceded by a 90-minute pre-show that will include performances of the five original song contenders that were recorded in advance on the roof of the new Academy Museum in Los Angeles, and in Iceland.