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Video: ‘King’ to reign over Oscars?

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    >>> we are back getting you set for the 83rd annual academy awards , hollywood 's biggest stars are preparing for the biggest night and everyone wants to know who the winners will be. kristen welker is outside the kodak theater to help. good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, meredith. as preparations get under way here at the kodak theater people across the country are starting to weigh in on who they think will take home oscar gold. some say it's a guessing game, but others say there is a real science to winning.

    >> you have destroyed the happiness of my family all for the sake of ensnaring --

    >> reporter: you can bet your cup of tea "the king's speech" will likely be knighted more than once.

    >> all right?

    >> yes.

    >> reporter: as much of a sure bet it seems it's illegal, even in las vegas , to put money down on the oscars. still, there is nothing illegal about setting the odds.

    >> colin firth is the strongest favorite i have ever made to win best actor .

    >> reporter: johnny avello claims he gets oscar gold right 70% of the time. this year he has "the king's speech" at 1 to 3 for best picture and firth way ahead for best actor .

    >> he's 1 to 8 which is unheard of when you have this type of performances throughout the year.

    >> reporter: while many in hollywood have natalie portman dancing to the best actress oscar , johnny says at 1 to 4 she's not guaranteed the win.

    >> she's the favorite but not as strong as colin firth . she has annette bening behind her at 5 to 1. if there is going to be an upset in these major categories it could be here.

    >> reporter: much like a vegas prize fight , those in the running for oscar glory aren't above a little self-promotion. melissa leo launched a campaign in the hollywood trades for best supporting actress , a bit of footwork that may not have been so fancy.

    >> somebody like amy adams or haylee steinfeld could beat melissa leo . some voters said she lost their vote after putting the ads out.

    >> that's what the facebook is going to be about.

    >> reporter: before filling out the office pool odds makers say at 3 to 1 don't forget about "the social network ." critics friended it almost immediately and it's hardly out of the running.

    >> i think the race is closer than people think. you could see an upset or two in some of the major categories.

    >> reporter: by sunday night we'll know whether the odds-on favorites win or whether oscar has a few aces tucked under that golden sleeve. there will always be a few surprises and upsets on oscar night, but one thing is 100% certain. on sunday, this theater will be filled with the biggest names and brightest stars in hollywood . meredith?

    >> you've got that. thank you very much. jeff kegel is here from entertainment weekly .

    >> good morning.

    >> are you predicting a predictable show or do you think there could be surprises?

    >> i think there are potential upsets here in a couple of the main categories. that's fun when they do it, but i think the most fun thing will be james franco and anne hathaway , unlikely oscar hosts . but i'm interested to see what they will do. i think it will be a hip, funny show this year.

    >> i was reading they were not the academy's first choice.

    >> they weren't. no. it's hard to find an oscar host.

    >> why?

    >> it's a no-win situation. david letterman talks about how embarrassing it was for him. remember that? the show is too long and there are awards you don't care about and the host gets blamed for it. of course it's not their fault. so james and anne decided to do it. first james decided to do it because he thought, look, i'm nominated, i know colin will win, so i'll be the host.

    >> i think they will be great. i think they are both charming. let's talk about the categories starting with best picture . the buzz is all over "the king's speech" but "the social network " did win the globe.

    >> i think "the king's speech" will get it. everyone in the academy loves it. they are cool on "the social network ." i don't know why. i thought it was great. "the king's speech" has 12 nominations and you just can't discount that. there seems to be a juggernaut going. if "the social network " won it would be a fantastic upset. "the fighter" could upset. but it looks like "the king's speech." if you had to put money on it, which is illegal.

    >> speaking of "the fighter," best supporting actor , christian bale . he's considered the front runner at this point.

    >> he looks like the front runner . the only thing to upset that category would be geoffrey rush in "the king's speech" because people are so fond of the movie and rush could come in as part of a sweep.

    >> best supporting actress . is that where we could see a surprise?

    >> that's the most interesting race this year. i think melissa leo was the front runner for a while. won the golden globe . then she took out trade ads that were kind of tacky. they said it might have cost her votes. but haylee steinfield from "true grit." it has ten nominations and probably won't win other big things . this would be their way to honor the movie and they love to give actors to teenagers. she's 14. whatever happens, amy adams , melissa leo .

    >> in her defense she said part of the reason she put out the ads is there is so much sexism, ageism she couldn't get a cover another way.

    >> i think it was great. smarter for her career than winning the oscar . we're talking about her and she seems exciting and unpredictable.

    >> best actor , colin firth .

    >> it's a lock. there is always a death and taxes of the academy awards . he's the death and taxes this year. he'll give a great speech.

    >> he sure will. "the king's speech" obviously. in terms of best actress , we go to the golden globes . we had annette bening on the comedy side and natalie portman on the drama side.

    >> portman looks like the favorite, but " black swan " has five nominations. "the kids are all right" which is annette bening 's movie has four nominations. there is clearly equal enthusiasm for both movies. annette bening , this would be the third nomination and she finally wins. so this could be the this is the moment win for annette.

    >> hollywood loves her.

    >> natalie portman looks like she'll take it but there could be an upset.

    >> thank you so much. al and i will have complete oscar wrap live from here in los angeles monday.

IMAGE: Social Network
Merrick Morton  /  AP
Jesse Eisenberg, left, played Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network." Eisenberg says the man he played was "sweet" when they met on "Saturday Night Live."
updated 2/25/2011 11:07:27 AM ET 2011-02-25T16:07:27

Playing real-life people on film is one of the trickier acting challenges, a feat that the Academy Awards has recognized more than 15 times over the past decade. They're expected to do it again at Sunday's ceremony, with the real-world tales "The King's Speech," "The Social Network," "The Fighter" and "127 Hours" up for multiple Oscars.

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Portraying a nonfictional character isn't a surefire way to win an Oscar, but it sure seems to help an actor's chances. James Franco, who is serving double duty as the show's co-host and a best actor nominee for "127 Hours," felt just as much pressure to portray real-life mountain climber Aron Ralston as he did to become a fictional heroin addict named Joey.

"You feel a different kind of responsibility, but you can also feel that for a fictional character," said Franco, one of eight nominees this year who portrayed a real person. "I played a heroin addict once opposite Robert De Niro (in 2002's "City by the Sea"). There are lots of people with heroin addictions, so you feel a big responsibility to get that right."

Some of this year's nominees shaped their performances after meeting their real-world counterparts. The cast and crew of "The Fighter" had access to the actual Ward boxing brood from Lowell, Mass., including Amy Adams, who is up for a best supporting actress trophy for her portrayal of bartender Charlene Fleming, Micky Ward's tough-as-nails second wife.

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"How I looked at it was as a gift because I was able to get a sense of her energy, her intention, her personality, her manner," said Adams. "It could be nerve-racking because you want their approval, but at the same time you know that you are there to tell the story that the director is telling, so that can be a little tricky, but mostly it is a gift."

Oscar fans: Cast your vote for best picture

Some of the Oscar contenders never received such a present. Jesse Eisenberg, who is nominated in the best actor category for his prickly take on Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network," never friended the inventor of poking until long after filming when Zuckerberg popped up on the episode of "Saturday Night Live" he hosted last month.

"He was so sweet," said Eisenberg. "The fact that he agreed to come on and do that with me, after what must be a very weird few months of having a movie out about yourself, and to not be involved with it and not be in control of it, I could only imagine if it was me, it would be a little uncomfortable. It was so wonderfully generous to come and do that."

Tom Hooper, the director of best picture front-runner "The King's Speech," believes it's more challenging to create an honest and accurate film chronicling a real-life story, especially when the royal family is involved. Hooper said he didn't want to hurt Queen Elizabeth II's feelings with his film about her father's struggle to overcome his stuttering.

"I think it is more difficult telling a story about real people, particularly iconic real people, than to tell stories about fictional people," he said. "When you are telling stories about invented people, no one is ever going to have an issue. They will have an issue if it is a bad film, but they are not going to go, 'But that character will never do that.'"

Follow our Oscar-night coverage on Twitter! Sign up now to follow Courtney Hazlett’s Oscar coverage live from L.A., plus Craig Berman’s humorous digs and insights throughout the golden night. And bookmark The Clicker blog now for live minute-by-minute coverage as it happens.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Photos: 10 best Oscar dresses

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  1. Gwyneth Paltrow in Calvin Klein

    At a time when so many were going over the top, Calvin Klein and Gwyneth Paltrow conspired on a spare sensuality for the 1996 ceremony. "My idea of glamour goes back to when the first great stars, like Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow, would slink around in silky charmeuse gowns that looked right out of the lingerie drawer," says Klein. "A love of sensual simplicity brought me and Gwyneth together on this dress. She understands that restraint is a part of great style. She showed up alone and went through the fabric bolts with me and chose the pink charmeuse. Two fittings and we were done. Her loose, feminine hair was in perfect keeping with a dress designed to show off the woman and not the designer."

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    (Steve Granitz / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Nicole Kidman in Dior

    The haute couture gown Nicole Kidman wore to the 1997 ceremony raised the bar for good. It's been an annual rite of "Can you top this?" ever since. "I was the new boy at the big House of Dior, and there were people who didn't think I would cut it," says John Galliano. "Nicole looked like a goddess and showed the world she believed in me. I had seen all of her work and wanted everyone to see her as a star in her own right, as well as being Mrs. Tom Cruise at the time. I've always been seduced by Hollywood, and it was a complete honor to dress her. Nicole trusted us and let us suggest a new direction and the striking chartreuse color, which was controversial at that point because everyone was using primaries or pastels. Dior turned the dress around quickly, as it had only been a month since the gem of the idea had appeared on the catwalk. She looked incredible-and even all this time later, she remains timelessly elegant and yet still directional." (John Paschal / Celebrity Photo) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Charlize Theron in Vera Wang

    Charlize Theron's 2000 Vera Wang dress featured a deep plunge in the front, a deeper one in the back, and an orange that burned in our memory. "I think a plunging back is always sexier than a plunging decolletage," says Wang. "It's more unexpected and more erotic. This gown captures that siren-like glamour of the past. I designed it with no side seams, which makes a dress sleek -- especially if you have the right body, which Charlize does. The reason the color popped so brilliantly is that the actual shade is achieved by overlaying six different hues that range from pink to pale green to form this brilliant opaque orange."

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    (Rob Beccaris-WireImage / Evan Agostini-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Diane Lane in Oscar de la Renta

    For Diane Lane's 2003 show appearance, canny designer Oscar de la Renta took the best of two dresses to make a spectacular one. "Here is an actress who carries herself so gracefully with an elegance that can't be taught -- it truly comes from within," says de la Renta. "The idea for the gown came from two dresses: The top was inspired by an off-the-shoulder cocktail dress in a nude embroidered silk tulle; the bottom, a gown with fantastic feather embroidery from the hip down. The combination worked very well-it's seven years later and we are still telling its story-and admiring Diane's beauty." (Kim D. Johnson / AP Photo) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Kate Hudson in Atelier Versace

    One of Hollywood's favorites, Kate Hudson bedazzled the 2003 awards in a 14kt gown that shows she is worth her weight in gold. "I love Kate. She's a real Versace girl," says Donatella Versace. "She knows what looks good on her. She wanted something that sparkled, but it had to be light and easy. She wanted to look sexy but also appear mysterious, like she was walking on clouds. Each piece of lace embroidery had to be handsewn on this Atelier Versace gown. From the first fitting, the dress belonged only to her."

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    (SGranitz / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Renee Zellweger in Carolina Herrera

    Something more than just an over-the-shoulder smile made us take a second look at Renee Zellweger's dress from 2004. "At night pure white is intensely glamorous for special occasions," says Carolina Herrera. "Renee doesn't use a stylist, so our discussions were as much a part of the design process as the sketches. She had just finished the second Bridget Jones movie, so I took advantage of her being a little curvier than usual. Thankfully Renee loves fittings, because nothing matters more than a perfect fit, especially with a strapless. The bow in the back -- eight yards of silk faille -- was the perfect surprise. I copied the bow in my bridal line and it was one of the best-selling wedding gowns I've ever done." (Gilbert Flores-Celebrity Photo / Fitzroy Barrett-Globe Photos Inc) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Jennifer Garner in Valentino

    When an artist falls in love with his subject, the resulting creation is often magical, like the gown Valentino created for Jennifer Garner to wear in 2004. "Jennifer is so comfortable in her own skin, she can wear a gown this complex," says Valentino. "Fifteen yards of taffeta -- I lost count of the amount of silk chiffon! The skirt alone has two layers and that train goes on forever, darling. It took four couturiers more than 300 hours to create it. Jennifer handled herself on the red carpet as if she were greeting people in the back garden of her home. She has an easy grace that makes her so beautiful."

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    (Janet Gough / Celebrity Photo) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Penelope Cruz in Chanel Haute Couture

    For every midnight blue flutter on Penelope Cruz's dress, there was a heart fluttering as she walked by at the 2008 ceremony. "I really love Penelope, especially in Pedro Almodovar movies, where you realize her irresistible charm embodies seduction itself," says Karl Lagerfeld. "I designed this dress in a flash, since I had already had a vision of her in it for Oscar night-all feathers and organza in navy blue, the ultimate chic color for Penelope. It took 200 hours to create the dress -- and five fittings -- to ensure it was perfection." (Sara De Boer / Retna) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Marion Cotillard in Jean Paul Gaultier

    There may be too many fish in the sea, but not a one of them could make Neptune more jealous than Marion Cotillard in this 2008 stunner. "Marion initially requested something simple, but I wanted everyone to see the woman I saw," says Jean Paul Gaultier. "So I showed her the sketches for this mermaid-inspired dress, and she loved it. We waited two weeks for the fabric, which was printed with fish scales and laboriously hand-embroidered. She was traveling everywhere promoting "La Vie en Rose," so we had to follow her for fittings. What a mad dash! But what a moment-wonderful and graceful, just like the actress, and woman, she is."

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    (Janet Gough / Celebrity Photo) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Anne Hathaway in Giorgio Armani Prive

    This 2009 gown with mother-of-pearl iridescence nearly matched Anne Hathaway's megawatt smile. "Anne is so lovely and ethereal -- she reminds me of the great actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age," says Giorgio Armani. "For this reason I dressed her as a type of fairy-mermaid, pure and sparkling. The strapless gown is derived from our Prive couture collection and has Swarovski crystals on a diagonal and oversize paillettes at the hem. The champagne color was meant to match her complexion so it would seem like a second skin on her. She looked truly breathtaking." (Vince Flores / Celebrity Photo) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow
    Steve Granitz / WireImage
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  1. Image: Kathryn Bigelow,Mark Boal,Jeremy Renner, Brian Geraghty, Anthony Mackie
    Mark J. Terrill / AP
    Slideshow (24) An evening at the Oscars
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    Slideshow (34) Red carpet glam at the Oscars

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