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Revealing Stuff on the Red Carpet
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones
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By Scott Huver, Staff

The red carpet scene at the Oscars is the ultimate whirlwind of Hollywood glitz, glamour, celebrity and achievement. was stationed at the eye of the storm to get the scoop as the top stars made their way into the Kodak Theater.

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First on the scene was, as tradition requires, was ever-press hungry Sally Kirkland, the 1988 nominee who still manages to score tickets to the show just to remind everyone she was once a contender. Perhaps the only celeb older than Sally to arrive so early was the elderly actor Patrick Crenshaw, best known as "Blue" from Old School, whose proud thumbs up inspired cheers from the crowd. And then there was spry screen legend Mickey Rooney. "I've gone to maybe 20 or 25 Academy Awards," the Mickster revealed. "You know, there's no Clark Gable or Spencer Tracy anymore, but the newness today of all the new people is just wonderful. I did a picture with Tim Robbins called Eric the Viking, so I'm rooting for him tonight."

As the limos carrying the stars began to deposit their celebrity charges, the TV hostesses were also getting into the glam act--well, except for Melissa Rivers, who broke her chi-chi shoe and did her interviews barefoot. Extra's Dana Devon was in a clingy, feathery Mark Zenino gown and had glittery sequins applied to her eyelids. "You have to lay down for it," she said. "It's like a surgical procedure. It's like an operation." Meanwhile Maria Menonous was all a-glow in a dazzling gown composed of "2.5 million dollars of diamonds and 3,000 carats."

Also dripping with diamonds--on her petite feet--was singer Alison Kraus in bejeweled stilettos created by Stuart Weitzman. "He makes an Oscar shoe every year and these are it," she said. "Two million dollars worth of diamonds." Allison noted that her preps were interrupted by a quick meal of spicy chicken wings. When I joked that I thought I saw orange fingerprints on her gown, she nearly freaked. "We've gotta send this dress back! Don't say that!"

All four hobbits--Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan--arrived together, preferring to skip the press line to meet the fans in the bleachers. Also spending a long time with the fans were Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, who signed autographs and posed for photos. Nicole Kidman gave fans an even better gift, blowing kisses to her admirers, while Diane Keaton laughed self-consciously as the fans screamed in delight for her. Jack Black was a bit cheekier, taunting the bleacher fans with his Oscar show tickets.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, red hot in a clinging red Versace, was kissing Diane Keaton warmly and bowing her head to the fans in the bleachers with her hands clutched prayer-like until Michael Douglas came to her and tugged her away. "Catherine, let's go! Let's go! C'mon!"

We asked Paul Giamatti if he planned to hang out with Harvey Pekar while the comic book writer was in town: "Oh yeah, Harvey's gonna love that," laughed Paul, who then admitted he did get some praise from the man he played on screen. "Yeah, yeah, he was as complimentary as he can be, absolutely. He couldn't be happier about the whole thing."

Surprise songwriting nominees (and husband and wife team) Annette O'Toole and Michael McKean, who wrote A Mighty Wind's " A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," said they were happy even if there wasn't a pot of little gold men at the end of their Oscar journey. "I hope we don't ever reach the end of the rainbow," said Annette, to which Michael replied, "Oh, we never will."

Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola admitted he had let his daughter Sofia play with his Oscars when she was a little girl. "Yes, definitely, we even had a little baby one."

Did he think some of that magic rubbed off on her? "We'll see if she gets a big one of her own."

Naomi Watts, radiant in pale pink Versace, made her beau Heath Ledger blush when she deemed him her favorite Oscar accessory. "And my mum, and my brother," she added. "Those are the most important pieces to make me feel calm."

Floating in a "mermaid-y" Bill Blass gown, Patricia Clarkson's favorite accessory was her date, too, Pieces of April director Peter Hedges, while New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes preferred the whale-shaped barrette in her hair. "It's a diamond whale. It's kind of a small good luck charm, but my biggest good luck charm is my mum."

Some of the guys seemed a little nervous as they headed in. Sean Penn remained, of course, mum, but at least he showed up. Alec Baldwin gave me a "so-so" hand motion when asked about his chances, while Tim Robbins kept a low-key presence as well. But Bill Murray was ready to rumble. "I feel good," he said calmly, before adding a healthy dose of attitude and a little body language that immediately brought to mind his scruffy Stripes character. "I feel good! I feel REAL good!" As for Clint Eastwood, the trademark line says it all. "Do I feel lucky? Sometimes."

It's not every day you spot two James Bonds in one place. Pierce Brosnan, dapper but unshaven in Giorgio Armani with velvet lapels, passed by, as did Sean Connery, who admitted he's lost count of his Oscar nights out. Does it get easier when you have a few ceremonies under your belt, Sean? "Possibly--I believe this one's better than last year."

There was a sea of designer fashion lapping at Oscar's shores: there was Holly Hunter in head-to-toe Vera Wang (they've been together ten years); Scarlett Johansson feeling "silky" in Alberta Ferretti and DeBeers diamonds; Samantha Morton in an exquiste Givenchy gown; Shoreh Agdashloo "red and happy" in Iranian designer Simin; Jada Pinkett Smith in a Dior frock picked specifically by her hubby Will Smith; Julia Roberts in Armani; Angelina Jolie, showing off her tattoos and erect (but not exposed, thanks, Janet) nipples in a sleek ivory Mark Bauer gown; Sofia Coppola in a pantsuit by perennial fashion muse Marc Jacobs; and Sandra Bullock in white Oscar de la Renta with silky bows.

And then there was Oprah Winfrey, who told me she'd approached designer Gianfranco Ferre for her gown, not the other way around. "I called him up," said Oprah, "and he sent me some sketches and some fabrics, and I thought it would work." But she reached no further than her own jewelry box for her diamond chandelier earrings. "These are my earrings."

The last girl on the carpet was the belle of the ball, the most shimmering one of all: Charlize Theron. All aglitter in a dazzling silver gown by Tom Ford for Gucci, Charlize was the final star to trek into the Kodak Theater, milking those last precious moments as a nominee. Her Monster director Patty Jenkins told us what was going on during their limo ride over to Hollywood; "A lot of butterflies, and a lot of concern that our dresses will fall apart," said Patty. "We have all those worst nightmare scenarios just like you do when you're in high school." And did the gal pals do anything to calm their nerves? "We had a champagne toast, and that was it."

And presumably, given Charlize's big victory, it was not the last toast of the night.

(POSTED: 3/1/2004 12:38:00 AM ET)

Photo(s) by Ken Kwok- © 2004- Staff- All Rights Reserved

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