The brightest stars in Hollywood are gathering this weekend for the Oscars, but Emmy-award winning set designer Derek McLane has made sure no one will outshine his stage this year.
That’s because McLane, who is returning as the Oscars set designer for the sixth year in a row, has emblazoned his incredible set with a whopping 45 million Swarovski crystals. For reference, last year’s displayed featured a relatively modest 200,000 crystals.
Swarovski has provided the sparkle on the Oscars stage for 11 years now, but this year’s set includes 40 times more crystals than all previous years combined.
“It’s the 90th anniversary, so this year our sets are reflecting a lot of different eras. We wanted to celebrate the long history of filmmaking,” McLane told PEOPLE. “But mostly the different eras are presented in a relatively abstract way, we’re not super specific about these things.”
For the main set, McLane said he “was inspired by the inside of a geode.” He explained, “It’s made of these shapes that look very angular and complex. And the surfaces are covered with these very, very small crystals. I think it makes a really dramatic statement.”
The set also changes dramatically depending on the lighting. “It can be lit in a variety of colors,” said McLane. “By itself it’s neutral and silver, but the lights really give it a different look. We have intense blues and red and they make it pink at some point. It’s very versatile in that way.”
Playing off his loose theme of different eras in film, one piece was designed to “look like the set of a movie musical from the 1930s or 1920s,” McLane said. “It’s built to look like a movie palace lobby, one of those really grand spectacular movie palaces with the big staircase.”
Another design, featuring giant, concentric rings invokes a more modern feel. “These are the wings of light,” the set designer said. “This is a much more modern piece with the steel rings with spokes that have clear incandescent bulbs on them. They’re very simple but I think they’re very strong onstage.”
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The sets will change 14 times throughout the evening, not including some smaller adjustments for musical performances. “During every commercial we change the set so there’s something new to look at when we come back,” McLane explained. “Sometimes we’ll change within an act, like if we’re going into a song.”
Returning for a second year will be the floating Oscars, which feature over 140,000 crystals alone. The installation will also include an original backdrop curtain, sparkling with over 80,000 crystals. Finally, the theater’s opera boxes will again be embellished with over 23,000 Swarovski stones.
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.