Oscars 2012: EW goes inside the star-studded rehearsals for tonight's show! -- PHOTOS

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AP Photo/Chris Carlson

The thing you need to know about Oscar rehearsals is they are like some bubble where the usual rules of Hollywood behavior don’t apply.

Sandra Bullock (left) sports glasses that almost certainly won’t be a red-carpet fashion accessory, while Robert Downey Jr. (right) raised the plastic practice Oscar he was presenting like he had just won it himself.

Stunning actresses showed up looking like they’re ready for a yoga class, the most dignified actors clown around like schoolboys, everyone seems to be reuniting with old friends …

For a few days, a community usually known for jealousies, backbiting, and cynicism comes together in a great big embrace.

AP Photo/Chris Carlson

It’s like the world’s most expensive and elaborate high school graduation.

“It seems like everybody who comes to the theater for rehearsals is in a good mood,” says Entertainment Weekly’s own managing editor Jess Cagle, who spent Saturday backstage in preparation for broadcasting from there as co-host of the Oscar’s pre-show (ABC, 7 p.m. ET, 4 PT.)

“I think it’s because they’re not there for themselves,” says Cagle. “There’s no pressure to promote something or themselves. They’re there for the Oscars and to support the nominees. It brings out the best in everybody.”

AP Photo/Chris Carlson

One major reason for the smoothness of the show is the legion of shadow-dwelling crew workers, many of whom have been doing the show for decades.

The point man is stage manager Dency Nelson (pictured left), who for 24 Academy Award ceremonies has steered the stars where they need to go while protecting them from potentially crushing scenery that always seems to be rolling in around them.

He’s a genial presence — part diplomat, part coach — though at times he can be heard describing his job this way: “Like herding cats.”

NEXT PAGE: Billy Crystal ... that name sounds familiar.

For more Oscar news tonight, follow @Breznican on Twitter.

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