Oscar producers: Hitchockian heroine, and 'new' superhero among Academy Award plans -- EXCLUSIVE

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Oscar is holding out for a hero.

The March 2 ceremony will be flexing its muscles this year, with the overall theme being a tribute to movie characters who save the day.

Producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan sat down to talk with EW about what they’ve got in store: including an appearance by an iconic Hitchcockian femme fatale, and a tribute to superheroes that they (surprisingly) promise will bring viewers to tears.

The producers — who have made feature films such as Chicago and The Bucket List, and TV specials like the recent live broadcast of The Sound of Music — are returning to the Oscars for their second time, after overseeing last year’s outing with Seth MacFarlane. And it’s also host Ellen DeGeneres’ second run as emcee, after first appearing on the 2007 ceremony.

Here’s what they have to say about what to expect:

HEROIC TENDENCIES

The producers have divided the show into sections, each one celebrating a different type of movie heroism, including cartoon good-guys from throughout the history of animation, to inspirational true-to-life champions, such as Norma Rae, To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch, or Captain Phillips.

Even their 75th anniversary celebration of Dorothy’s quest in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz fits the theme. “She saves Oz!” Meron says. “Dorothy is the ultimate hero.”

Finally, they plan to spotlight filmmakers and actors who “take on very difficult subject matter and conquer it,” Zadan says. “They don’t play it safe. So we’re celebrating not only who you see on the screen, but the people who are behind the scenes.”

THE NEW ADDITION
“Then we have the popular heroes: superheroes and characters like Harry Potter and Indiana Jones, or the Ghostbusters,” Meron says.

As part of that, the duo have orchestrated a special tribute that they promise will be an emotional moment for viewers and the audience seated in the Dolby Theatre.

“[Amazing Spider-Man star] Andrew Garfield is going to be part of what we hope is a very moving moment in the show, which will illustrate the theme of how movies have inspired,” Meron adds. “He is going to induct a new superhero into the fraternity of superheroes.”

Point out that it’s hard to figure out exactly what he’s talking about, and both producers smile knowingly, but won’t tease any more. All they say is to expect to have your heartstrings tugged by this enigmatic part of the show.

EW has its guesses, but we’ll keep them to ourselves for now. But if this moment of the show involves what we think it will — an act of real life good-guyism that blends into the world of capes and masks, it will be memorable indeed.

Sometimes, the Dark Knight Rises … to go find a box of Kleenex

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Image Credit: Everett Collection

HITCHCOCKIAN HEROINE
Kim Novak’s iconic role was the mysterious, possibly possessed Madeline in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo, but she has remained just as elusive in recent years, making only rare public appearances.

On Oscar night, she’ll be one of the presenters — and though the producers won’t say what she’s doing, expect it to be part of the show’s heroic theme.

“She’s the ultimate Hitchcock heroine,” Meron says. “A lot of the audience won’t know who Kim Novak is, but there will be those that do and hopefully it can just remind people. People will discover who she is and have an opportunity to look at what she’s done. And that’s kind of the fun part of doing this show too.”

“The challenge is to do a blend — to make sure that you have all of the young Hollywood actors that people want to see but also really think about the legacy,” Zadan adds.

“When we look at the show we want to have representation from all of the ages of film stars,” Meron said. “And when we looked upon the list, Kim stood out as being away for a long time — and looking amazing while still being very vital and we thought, why not?”

“She was the Angelina Jolie of her time,” Zadan says.

ELLEN DEGENERES
“The whole heroes theme works beautifully with Ellen as host because what she does so well is compassionate comedy,” Zadan says. “She’s hilarious, but has a tremendous amount of humanity. We felt that the whole theme fell into who she is as a person.”

He said she has spent weeks doing a deep dive into Oscar shows of yesteryear. “She watched the Johnny Carson years, and the Bob Hope years — I mean, she watched lots and lots of shows and she said, you know, I realize that it’s really important to keep entertaining those people for the whole show. It’s not about coming out and being funny [in a monologue] and then just introducing people.”

“She understood that the hosts can’t disappear for long stretches of time,” Meron adds. “She wants to be very present throughout the entire show to eliminate a lot of the ‘voice of god’ introductions.”

“She said she’s open to collaborating with us. She’s open to anything, and there’s only one thing she absolutely will not do — which is wear a gown,” Zadan says.

Meron adds: “So we didn’t ask her to.”

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