Psst: Have you heard that the Oscars are going to be a little ... well, different this year?
Oh. You have.
The worst-kept secret in Hollywood this awards season has been how first-time producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon, in a bid to build buzz and bounce back from last year's ratings nadir, are keeping their Oscars overhaul plans a secret. From promising sweeping format changes without elaborating to shrouding presenters' identities and shutting the press out of rehearsals, they've largely succeeded.
At the secrecy part, anyway.
"When (the producers) told me what they were going to do, I said, ‘Look, if it works, you're geniuses, and if it doesn't, you're the putzes who sank the show,'" longtime Oscars show writer Bruce Vilanch said.
But lest cloaks and daggers become this year's hot red carpet couture, here are the details about the show that — whether by design, or loose lips — have come to light over the past week:
SONG-AND-DANCE (JACK)MAN: "Hugh (Jackman, the host) is going to come out and say a few things, but he's not going to do a 10-minute monologue ... He's going to be doing a lot of musical stuff, so that will have a different feel to it." — Vilanch, in an interview with The Associated Press.
NEED A MONTAGE: The original song nominees will be presented together in a medley-style performance, rather than sprinkled throughout the show and played in their entirety. — Nominee Peter Gabriel, who announced in a video blog on his Web site that he was declining to perform "Down To Earth" from "WALL-E" to protest the one-minute limit for his part.
I'M WITH THE BAND!: The band will be onstage for at least part of the show, rather than in the orchestra pit. A circular ministage juts into the audience. The set is surrounded by a glittering circle of white lights and crystals, and is flanked by enormous chandeliers. — Seen in renderings released by the firm of architect and first-time Oscars set designer David Rockwell.
NIGHTCLUB JITTERS: "The look of the theater is very different. It's more like the nightclub of your dreams. It's very intimate. ... It's got to be a lot closer." — Jackman, in an AP interview.
NEVERENDING STORY: "The show's got a narrative line this year, so all the awards are grouped around that. The sequence in which they're given is dictated by this narrative." — Vilanch.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: Five LED flat-screens will move in and out of the set to help carry out the show's "narrative." The entire sets will change and evolve, "powered by a visual narrative that will unfold through 12 transforming sets throughout the night." — The Rockwell renderings.
PRESENTING ... PRESENTERS! "There are different people doing groups of awards instead of a different set for each one." And at least some of the presenters who'd been lined up have backed out, emboldened by the anonymity they were afforded by the producers. — Vilanch, who didn't name names.
MUSIC, MAKES THE PEOPLE, COME TOGETHER: The original-song medley will have a vibrant, world-music theme driven by nominee "Slumdog Millionaire," and includes a drum line made up of Indian, African, Japanese and Chinese percussionists. The "giant extravaganza" also has a full orchestra and choir. — DJ Ravi Drums, the leader of the drum line for the number.