Hugh Jackman turns Oscar opening into a musical

LOS ANGELLOS ANGELES - Australian actor Hugh Jackman, the first non-comedian to host the Oscars in more than two decades, opened the Academy Awards telecast Sunday with a musical tribute spoofing this year’s crop of film nominees.ES - Australian actor Hugh Jackman, the first non-comedian to host the Oscars in more than two decades, opened the Academy Awards telecast on Sunday with a musical tribute spoofing this year’s crop of film nominees.

By (Reuters)

Published: Mon 23 Feb 2009, 9:50 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:52 AM

The original song-and-dance number put his talents as a Broadway musical veteran to the test as he lampooned all five of the films vying for best picture in short succession -- ”Slumdog Millionaire,” “Milk,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon” and “The Reader.”

“I haven’t seen ’The Reader.’ I was going to see it later, but I fell behind,” he sang, referring to the Holocaust-themed film’s status as a must-see movie largely ignored by mainstream audiences. “I know I need to see ’The Reader.’ I went down to the theater, but there was a line.”

Midway through the number, Jackman strode to the front-row of the Kodak Theatre, picked up best actress nominee Anne Hathaway in his arms, and carried her to the stage to join him in a gender-bending duet paying homage to “Frost/Nixon.”

The number went over big with the crowd of Oscar attendees, drawing a standing ovation from the stars.

While Oscar producers promised a departure from the usual format in this year’s show, Jackman’s turn as emcee was not without the kind of banter and jokes that might have been delivered by his long line of comic predecessors.

Approaching best actor nominee Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler” star known for rambling media interviews laced with four-letter words, Jackman told him: “You say whatever’s on your mind. We have a seven-second (broadcast) delay. But if you win, we switch to a 20-minute delay.”

To Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, nominated for their respective roles in “Benjamin Button” and “Changeling,” Jackman said: “I actually don’t have a joke for them. I’m just contractually obligated to mention them at least five times during the show.”

It was a not-so-sly allusion to Jolie’s reputation for shrewd manipulation of the celebrity-starved media, but got a chuckle from the glamour couple nevertheless.

Thinking steroids?

He even poked a bit of fun at Meryl Streep, who earned a record 15th career nomination for her work in “Doubt,” a film about unproven accusations.

“I hate to say it but when someone puts up numbers like that, it’s just hard not to think: steroids.”

But Jackman’s first joke of the night came at his own expense, and that of his home country’s national rival Down Under, as he observed that he is an Australian playing an Australian character in his latest film, “Australia.”

“Because of the recession, everything is being downsized,” he said, deadpanning that, “Next year, I’ll be starring in a movie called ’New Zealand.”’

But Jackman returned to his Broadway roots at mid-show, taking the stage in top hat and tails for a song-and-dance number saluting Hollywood musicals, joined by singer-actress Beyonce, and several cast members from “High School Musical” and “Mamma Mia!”

Oscar organizers turned to Jackman, 40, as part of their bid to give a new look and feel to a live telecast that, like many awards shows, has slumped in the ratings in recent years.

The Tony Award-winning musical stage actor and film star best known on the big screen for his mutant superhero role as Wolverine in the “X-Men” movies is the first non-comedian to serve as solo Oscar host since Jack Lemmon in 1985.

The last time a non-American served as host was in 1987, when the ceremony was presided over by a trio of emcees consisting of Australian “Crocodile Dundee” star Paul Hogan, Oscar-winning actress Goldie Hawn and comic actor Chevy Chase.

Jackman is no stranger to the chore of emceeing major show biz awards. He hosted Broadway’s Tonys broadcast on three occasions, winning an Emmy for his 2004 turn.

And as People magazine’s 2008 pick as “sexiest man alive,” Jackman possessed the eye-candy appeal for female viewers, a key constituent of the Oscars’ TV audience.

Here’s a quick walkthrough into the profiles of the winners at the 81st Academy Awards.

Best Actress : Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet was named best actress for her dramatic turn as a former Nazi prison guard who involves herself in a love affair with a teenage boy in “The Reader.” She fought back tears when accepting her trophy and remembered a time as an 8-year-old when she dreamed of winning one of the world’s top film award. Read More ....

Best Actor: Sean Penn

Sean Penn won the best actor Oscar on Sunday for his portrayal of slain San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk in the movie “Milk.” Penn,picked up the second Oscar of his career, the first being his 2004 win for his lead role as a grieving father in “Mystic River.” Read More

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

'Slumdog Millionaire,' the movie about a poverty-raised tea boy who goes on a game show as a way to find his lost love, takes home the Best Picture award and leads all films with eight Oscars at the 81st annual Academy Awards. Read More

Best supporting actor: Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger gives one of the best performances of his regrettably short life as a nihilist super villain in clown paint in 'The Dark Knight.' The Joker was his final completed role, a casting choice that initially drew scorn from fans who thought Ledger would not be up to the task given Jack Nicholson's gleefully campy rendition of the character in 1989's 'Batman.'Read More

Best supporting actress: Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Penelope Cruz claimed the evening's first prize, supporting actress, for her role as a tempestuous artist in Woody Allen's Spanish romance 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona”. It's the fifth time an Allen film has earned a performer a supporting-acting honor. Read More

Best Director: Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle was the clear favorite to win the Oscar, having already amassed awards from bellwether groups, such as the Directors Guild of America. “Slumdog Millionaire” marks a rare mainstream hit for Boyle, who rose to fame with the grim 1996 drugs tale ”Trainspotting.” Read More

The Complete List of Winners

  • Best Movie: Slumdog Millionaire

  • Best Actress: Kate Winslet - The Reader

  • Best Actor: Sean Penn - Milk

  • Best director: Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

  • Best supporting actress: Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Best original screenplay: Milk
  • Best adapted screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best animated feature film: Wall-E
  • Best animated short film: La Maison en Petits Cubes
  • Art direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Costume design: The Duchess
  • Make-up: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best live action short film: Spielzeugland (Toyland)
  • Best supporting actor: Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
  • Best documentary feature: Man on Wire
  • Best documentary short subject: Smile Pinki
  • Visual effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Sound editing: The Dark Knight
  • Sound mixing: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Film editing: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best original score: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best original song: Jai Ho - Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best foreign language film: Departures - Japan

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