While the show goes on out-front, the most popular place backstage at Sunday night’s Academy Awards will be the greenroom — sort of a holding cell for the stars more luxurious than most American homes.
Presenters and performers alike — including Halle Berry, John Travolta, Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana — will await their cue in what has to be the grandest of all greenrooms, a staple of TV talk shows for years.
Actually, this sanctuary of serenity amid the bustle of stagehands and set changes isn’t green at all. The 720-square-foot room is instead bathed in a palette of deep red, black and gold, all designed to ease the butterflies of Oscar stars before they walk out to face a few hundred million of their biggest fans.
Before the room came to life Wednesday, the nondescript hallway of cinderblock and chain-link fence resembled “a batting cage or a dog run,” said Randi MacColl, associate publisher of Architectural Digest, which paid for the room and will feature it in its June edition.
The room was designed by veteran Oscar set designer Roy Christopher and his wife, Dorothy. They, in turn, were inspired by interior designer Dorothy Draper, who famously redecorated West Virginia’s Greenbrier Hotel in the 1940s.
“We embraced this exotic, sexy kind of palette and shapes and forms,” Christopher said. “It’s hard to describe because it’s somewhere between Victorian and Chinese ... It’s a very comfortable, elegant space,” he said.
The ceiling is black, the walls are decorated with patterned deep red wallpaper, and red and black lacquer tables are loaded with white orchids, white roses, calla lilies, and of course an occasional copy of Architectural Digest.
Stars can plop on the sleek sofas or zebra-print chairs while keeping an eye on one of three wall-mounted plasma televisions carrying the show. Or they can admire their well-mounted selves on several big screens of the mirrored variety.
“It’s a big night, people are dressed to the nines, why shouldn’t they have a place to wait for their cue that’s as wonderful as the rest of the night?” MacColl said.
The greenroom is also where celebrities can grab a soft drink and some finger food. But if they need a real drink, it’s strictly BYOB or wait four hours for the Governors Ball upstairs.
If the stars need a cigarette to calm their nerves, there’s an adjoining outdoor smoking section featuring five ficus trees festooned with twinkly white lights, a couple of ashtrays and a not-so-glamorous view of a loading dock.
Nonetheless, the smoking area “gets more action than anything,” Christopher said.
And in true Hollywood fashion, the greenroom is a veritable pantheon of product placement. Vendors who loaned furniture, electronics, lighting and the red-and-black carpet are duly recognized in tastefully framed references hung on the walls.
The city fire inspector capped the room’s occupancy at 40 people, although only 25 can be seated comfortably.
Not that anyone stays for long.
“It’s usually lightly populated, but everyone gets there sooner or later,” said Christopher.
Even the winners, who often rush offstage clutching their Oscars and dash into the greenroom for a quick respite before following the “winner’s walk” to the press rooms in the hotel next door.
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“The elements in the room are affordable,” Architectural Digest spokesman James Humphrey said. “That Henredon couch is not beyond the average person. Now to get it painted by a scenic artist is another story.”