When the curtains part and Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe walk to center-stage at the Dolby Theatre Saturday morning to rehearse lines they’ll deliver at the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday, Spencer for one can’t hide her goofy exuberance.
“I’m so excited!”, says the Oscar-nominated actress, casual in a grey sweater and wearing no make-up, while surveying the orchestra seats emblazoned with cardboard name-cards and head-shots of the likes of Emma Stone, Matt Damon and Meryl Streep.
“I’d like to thank the Academy for opening the curtains for such a grand entrance!”
The Hidden Figures co-stars, who at one point playfully strike a dramatic Charlie’s Angels pose, pretend guns aloft, are among the first to kick off a steady stream of A-listers to breeze in and out of the theater for rehearsals early Saturday.
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“Dwayne Johnson is here!” announces a member of the production crew into his head-set as the upbeat Moana actor saunters onto the stage. Nailing his lines after a few minutes, Johnson pulls out his iPhone and asks a stage hand to snap a photo of him in a celebratory pose with the backdrop of the near-empty theatre. Spotting his own make-shift head-shot affixed to an orchestra seat, the Rock points and says, “Oh, there I am!”
The star power is non-stop: Samuel L. Jackson, wearing a sweatshirt and baseball cap turned backwards, snaps a commemorative selfie from the stage; David Oyelowo, with his wife and four kids in tow to watch him rehearse, claps when a “winner” is announced; Henson is handed an Oscar trophy to simulate presenting but instead pretends to steal it and runs off stage while giggling.
Some actors stop to take in the moment. Scarlett Johansson, in a cropped jacket and clogs, looks around the auditorium and art-deco-inspired stage design and says, “It’s very glamorous!”
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While most wear sneakers during rehearsal, presenter Kate McKinnon, otherwise casually dressed in a grey hoodie and a black long coat, slips on a pair of high-heel shoes to practice walking across the Oscar stage. But once she learns her lines and gives out several pretend Oscars, McKinnon is right back in her flats — and out the door.
The Academy Awards kicks off live on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 26, with a 7 p.m. ET pre-show and 8:30 p.m. ceremony. See all the Oscar nominees and get your own ballot here!