Sandra Bullock wasn’t about to let a few sniffles spoil the fun.
Taking center stage at the Dolby Theatre late Saturday afternoon to rehearse the lines she’ll deliver as a presenter at the 90th Academy Awards, the actress spied a microphone rising up from the floor directly in front of her. “Suddenly the dress is just riding up,” she said, envisioning an Oscar night wardrobe malfunction should the pop-up mic catch on her gown. “Chiffon billowing up…”
Although a bit under the weather (“I have my kid’s cold!” she told the production crew, warning of “phlegm” issues), the star gamely practiced handing a prop statuette to a “winner” and read from a teleprompter positioned at the back of the near-empty orchestra.
Bullock, who took home the Best Actress Oscar in 2010 for The Bind Side, was but one in a steady stream of Hollywood A-listers to breeze in and out of the Dolby in quick, if dazzling, succession on Saturday.
For some, rehearsals were a family affair: Matthew McConaughey, casual in jeans and a white button-down with the sleeves rolled up, came with wife Camila, who smiled and clapped from the front row as the actor opened his envelope and offered hearty “Congratulations!” to a faux winner. Viola Davis had her six-year-old daughter Genesis in tow, and the sweet duo delighted in spotting Octavia Spencer’s photo among the famous faces emblazoned on cardboard placards affixed to seats throughout the audience.
Leaving the couture and diamonds for Oscar night, most celebrities dressed down and wore little makeup for the behind-closed-doors rehearsals. Last year’s Best Supporting Actor winner, Mahershala Ali, wore a black knit cap, jeans and sneakers, while Ansel Elgort opted for a camo hat, Adidas track pants and a sweatshirt decorated with super-sized eyeballs, teeth and a tongue. The low-key star power was non-stop: Emily Blunt and Emma Stone, sipping a cup of coffee after nailing her stage blocking, went makeup free with hair pulled back.
But true to the vision of Oscars producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd that this year’s show will celebrate cinematic legends, a series of heavyweight actresses and former Oscar winners, including Rita Moreno, Eva Marie Saint, Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren, also stopped by rehearsals throughout the afternoon.
“It’s exhausting!” Moreno said from the Dolby stage, feigning fatigue after practicing her lines. “Always a ham,” said the actress’s grown daughter, Fernanda Gordon, who revealed that her mom will wear the same dress to Sunday’s show that she did over a half-century ago when she won an Oscar for West Side Story in 1962. “Not too shabby!” said a spirited Moreno about the dress’s second life, before spotting Lin-Manuel Miranda emerging from the wings with Blunt, his co-presenter. At that, Moreno playfully yelled “Lin-Manuel!” from the orchestra.
The rehearsal line-up was a thrilling mix of new and veteran performers — and all were in good spirits. At one point, 93-year-old Saint, who won an Oscar in 1955 for On the Waterfront, stumbled over a word on the teleprompter, and quipped without missing a beat, “I haven’t been to school lately!”
Fonda, paired with Mirren, took in the stage design and noted to production designer Derek McLane, “It looks like the Orgasmatron in Barbarella, only way prettier!” (For her part, Mirren thanked the audience for laughing at the duo’s more playful lines, saying, “It’s much appreciated!”). Meanwhile, Baby Driver actress Eiza González surveyed the orchestra and said, “Hi Denzel Washington!” when she spotted the seat bearing his name and head-shot.
While Sunday’s show promises plenty of levity — Jimmy Kimmel is hosting after all — some guests will likely hit a more serious note. Although specifics of their appearance have not been revealed, three actresses who have shared allegations against Harvey Weinstein — Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek — will take the stage together.
At Saturday’s rehearsal, Sciorra, dressed down in sneakers, a scarf and cap, made a quick note of where she’d be sitting for the show (“I love Tiffany Haddish,” she said, pleased with her seat’s proximity to the comic actress), before starting to run her lines. “It’s an honor…” she began, before appearing moved by the enormity of the moment. But after a brief pause, and with Judd at her side, Sciorra continued on.
The 90th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be broadcast live on the ABC Television Network at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.