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Gay Duo Producing the Oscars: We Won't Disappoint

By Neal Broverman

Let's face it: You're going to watch the Oscars no matter what. But powerhouse producing team Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Chicago, Smash, Footloose, dozens of other projects) are helming the 85th annual Academy Awards, and they're determined not to make it a slog. Even though the presenters and host aren't lubricated with alcohol like at the Golden Globes, and attendees will have their naughty bits covered, unlike the Grammys, Zadan and Meron are packing their telecast with lively performances aplenty. While much of the joy of the Oscars is watching it with friends, Zadan and Meron say their show will be as entertaining as your wittiest, bitchiest pal. Here's more of what to expect on February 24, a.k.a. Oscar day:

The Advocate: You guys have said producing the Oscars has long been a dream of yours. Is it everything you expected it to be?
Meron: Honestly, I personally I didn’t have any expectations as to the workload other than the fact that it would be an extraordinary experience, which it’s proving to be. Now that we’re knee-deep in it, it does consume your life. It takes over every aspect, but happily so. The level of talent we’re dealing with on a minute-by-minute basis is the best in the world. It’s a rare opportunity when you get to deal with talent like that and put your stamp on an institution.

We hear there will be a montage of movie musicals.
Zadan: It’s not a montage, it’s a tribute. We decided to do a bunch of celebrations. The show is almost solely about the nominees and the winners — not that we’re going to avoid that — but we’re cutting through extra time by adding more entertainment. One hour we’re going to do a James Bond tribute, another hour we’ll do a tribute to movie musicals of the last decade. We chose three: Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Les Miserables.

How's Seth MacFarlane to work with?
Meron: This is the first time working with him, and funny enough, Don Mischer, who’s directing the show, asked us to shadow him at the Emmys [where he was hosting] to get a feel of what it was to like to produce a live show. When we met Seth backstage, he was unaware we were going to ask him the big question. It’s been an incredible collaboration ever since.

Are you Family Guy fans?
Meron: Oh, yeah.

With Jodie Foster's pseudo-coming out at the Golden Globes, do you feel pressure to make a big Oscar moment happen?
Zadan: The Golden Globes and the Oscars have nothing to do with each other. There are so many big moments in our show, so many huge pieces that will be water cooler moments. We have plenty of those.
Meron: There will be many Oscar moments.

Is there any residual weirdness from Brett Ratner getting fired last year as Oscar producer, following an antigay comment he made?
Meron: Everybody at the Oscars and the Academy has been absolutely incredible. It’s a wonderful environment to do the show. We’ve been awarded a great deal of freedom in terms of what we want to include in the show. There’s been no backlash from the Brett Ratner thing.
Zadan: They’re seeing the show and they’re very excited. They like that we have more entertainment than in the usual Oscars.

It's common knowledge that the Oscars are the gay Super Bowl. Is their pressure to please the LGBT audience?
Meron: The producers of the Oscars are openly gay. That infuses our work in a subtle way and will always be there. The LGBT viewers will not be disappointed.
Zadan: When it unfolds and you’ve seen all the performances and entertainment it will appeal to an enormous entertainment audience, hopefully globally, and particularly the gay and lesbian audience.

Do you have a movie you're cheering for?
Meron: This has been an incredible year for film, it’s been an embarrassment of riches. There are so many things that distinguished this year.
Zadan: Many years the nominees are only art films with no audience, but many of these pictures nominated for best film this year passed $100 million at the box office. And some of the movies not nominated are still being honored, like with the Bond tribute where we’re having Adele perform, singing "Skyfall" live for the first time ever.

You work with so many fascinating people, but Adele seems like one of the most enjoyable.
Meron: When we got the job, she was one of the first calls we made.

 

The 85th annual Academy Awards air on ABC Sunday, February 24, at 7 p.m. Eastern/4 p.m. Pacific.

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