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

Billy … who?

In a place full of celebrity sightings, sometimes even the host can find himself camouflaged.

Tonight the 84th annual Oscars bring a close to Hollywood’s award season, but before that, EW takes you behind the scenes as stars gather to rehearse the big telecast.

Here’s what happened when Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Emma Stone, Christian Bale, Tom Hanks, and the ladies of Bridesmaids (among others) came together to put on a show. Even past Oscar-winners like Gwyneth Paltrow, pictured here, can have a “d’oh” moment.

Among the stories from backstage over the past two days is the hilariously bizarre account of what happened when the voice of Darth Vader met Miracle Max — and said he mistook him for “a hoodlum.”



tom-cruise-1

Image Credit: Chris Carlson/AP

It’s rehearsal time for the Academy Awards, and a woman striding offstage pretending to be a winner is holding an Oscar so fake it could be a child’s art project.

In the shadows beside a great velvet curtain, the stand-in for best actress comes face to face with none other than the real Tom Cruise, who has an envelope clasped in his hands and is waiting for his cue to walk out and practice presenting the next award.

AP Photo/Chris Carlson

The Mission: Impossible star tips a slight bow and raises his eyebrows with a wry, mega-watt smile. “Congratulations!” he declares, like he really, really, means it. Really. He chuckles, and – after a beat – so does the stunned stand-in.

If sincerity is the goal, it is surely one of Cruise’s worst-ever performance. But he’s just goofing around.

That’s the great thing about being backstage in the final few days before the Academy Awards — guards are down, and a guy like Cruise can just kid around. Though the crew is working hard, the stars are literally going through the motions.

Tonight when the real show begins (8:30 p.m. Eastern and 5:30 Pacific, on ABC), the pressure returns for everyone with a vengeance.

MORE ON REHEARSALS: Sandra Bullock, Robert Downey Jr. and the shadow dwellers

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

Oscars 2012: Kermit and Miss Piggy on their acting snubs (and Michael Fassbender's -- Piggy is a fan) -- VIDEO

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Sunday’s Oscars will mark the Muppets’ fifth appearance at the Academy Awards. Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, stars of 2011’s The Muppets, which is the third Muppet movie to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, will be at the ceremony to introduce a surprise. “Something very special,” Kermit told EW yesterday. That is, of course, if Piggy’s deal closes. As we learned when we interviewed the power couple alongside Academy president Tom Sherak, she’s demanding to take home an Oscar statuette after years of being snubbed for her acting. She’s also outraged on Kermit’s behalf. Did he not play twins with Fozzie in The Great Muppet Caper? Did he not suffer amnesia in The Muppets Take Manhattan?

Watch Piggy grill Sherak about why the Academy refuses to recognize them in part 1 of the interview below. In part 2, we find out that Piggy shares our disappointment that Shame‘s Michael Fassbender was also snubbed this year.  READ FULL STORY

Miss Piggy to host BAFTA red carpet

Miss Piggy will host the red carpet at this Sunday’s Orange British Academy Film Awards ceremony — the BAFTAs. “Imagine the likes of Clooney, Dujardin, Fassbender, Oldman, and Pitt achieving the very pinnacle of their careers by getting a chance to speak with the one and only moi — Miss Piggy!” the diva said in a statement. “Naturally, I will be asking questions that only moi would dare to ask.”

Spencer McHugh, director of brand at Orange, said: “We couldn’t be more delighted that an icon of Miss Piggy’s stature has agreed to host our red carpet show from this year’s BAFTA’s. Having her there is very exciting for us and we can’t wait to see what great interviews she gets on the night.”

The Muppets, which has grossed $87.5 million in North America since opening Nov. 23, premieres in the United Kingdom this week.

Read more:
Muppets mock Fox News
EW Review: ‘The Muppets’
Fox Business claims ‘Muppets’ have liberal bias

Oscars 2012: Music branch chief Bruce Broughton on this week's controversial Best Song noms

One of the big stories of this week’s Oscar nominations was the announcement that, for the first time in history, only two songs have been given the nod in the Best Song category: Bret McKenzie’s “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets and the Rio number “Real in Rio,” which was co-written by legendary Brazilian musician Sérgio Mendes. Below, Bruce Broughton, who is chair of the Academy’s Music Branch Executive Committee, explains how just a brace of songs came to receive noms and why the situation might prompt a rule change.

READ FULL STORY

Oscars 2012: Why did only two tunes get nominated in the Best Song category?

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There’s one thing that’s even less easy than being green: being nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar. For the first time in the history of the Academy Awards, only two tunes made the cut this year: “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets and the Rio track “Real in Rio.” “I thought it was going to be more songs,” says legendary Brazilian musician Sérgio Mendes, who co-wrote the Rio tune. “On the other hand, I’m glad it’s just two!” The two-tune showdown certainly increases his odds against Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie, who penned “Man or Muppet.”

READ FULL STORY

'Muppets' songwriter Bret McKenzie talks about facing off against Sergio Mendes in the Best Song Oscar race: 'I'm hoping we have a drum battle on the red carpet!'

Because of the 487 hour (approx.) time difference between Los Angeles and New Zealand, Bret McKenzie was asleep when it was announced his Muppets movie tune “Man or Muppet” had been nominated for an Oscar. “My phone was ringing hot,” says the Kiwi and Flight of the Conchords member about discovering the news. “Then I checked my email. I had a lot of emails.”

READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'New Year's Eve' drops the ball with $13.7 million; 'The Sitter' can't fill seats

Wait! Don’t pop the champagne just yet.

As has been the case over so many frames this fall, audiences largely ignored this weekend’s two new wide releases. New Year’s Eve and The Sitter both opened to ho-hum results. In fact, the Top 20 movies at the North American box office grossed just $73.2 million — the worst total of the entire year.

New Year’s Eve led the box office with $13.7 million in its first three days. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'New Year's Eve' starts with a soft $5.1 million on Friday

Could someone fix the box office, please?

For the umpteenth time this fall, new releases are turning in utterly uninspiring box office results, and this weekend’s Top 12  could finish just behind Labor Day weekend’s as the second-lowest-grossing group of 2011.

New Year’s Eve led the sorry crop with $5.1 million on Friday. Despite half of Hollywood starring in the film and an extra-wide 3,505-theater count, New Year’s Eve looks like it’s only headed to an opening weekend of about $14-15 million.

The Sitter, meanwhile, grossed $3.7 million on its first day, which should give the Jonah Hill comedy about $10 million for the weekend. Given low expectations and a $25 million budget, that almost seems like a major victory.

In third, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 grossed $2.5 million on its way to a likely $7.8 million weekend. The Muppets, in fourth, pulled in $1.7 million, but thanks to a family-fueled bump at weekend matinees, it may finish close behind Twilight with about $7 million. Hugo rounded out the Top 5 with $1.6 million. It may earn $6.5 million by Sunday.

In limited release, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is outperforming Young Adult. Though the Gary Oldman spy film is in just four theaters, it earned almost exactly what Charlize Theron’s dark comedy grossed in twice as many venues: $90,000. Both look to finish in the $250-300,000 range.

Check back tomorrow for the full box office report.

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Box office report: 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn' is No. 1 for third week in a row with $16.9 mil

For the first time, a Twilight movie has ruled the box office for three weeks in a row. During what was one of the slowest weekends of the year, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 held on to first, dropping 60 percent for $16.9 million, according to studio estimates.

That’s a smaller decline than what The Twilight Saga: New Moon experienced during the same weekend two years ago — it fell 64 percent. Nevertheless, Breaking Dawn — Part 1 is still trailing the past two Twilight movies. The fourth entry in the romantic supernatural series has so far grossed a stellar $247.3 million in 17 days. By comparison, New Moon had earned $255.4 million by this point, while The Twilight Saga: Eclipse had collected $255.8 million. This will ultimately be a moot point when Breaking Dawn — Part 2 comes out next November and likely destroys all of the franchise’s records. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn' holds on to first place with $5.5 mil on Friday

There’s just no stopping those Twihards. What was supposed to be a close race between The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 and The Muppets instead looks to be a comfortable victory for the vampire-human love story.

According to early estimates, Breaking Dawn — Part 1 grossed $5.5 million on Friday — a drop of 67 percent from last Friday. That may sound like a steep decline, and it is, but keep in mind that the weekend following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is typically one of the slowest box-office frames of the year. Also, Breaking Dawn held up slightly better than The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which plummeted 71 percent on the same Friday in 2009. (Both movies were released on the same November weekend, making them especially appropriate to compare.) Breaking Dawn should finish the weekend with about $16 million. READ FULL STORY

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