The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revealed more details about the upcoming 2021 Oscars ceremony.
On Saturday, during a virtual press conference held by show producers Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh, the trio said that the impact of COVID-19 will be highlighted throughout the show and masks will “play a very important role” in the story that the ceremony is trying to convey.
“If that’s cryptic, it’s meant to be,” said Soderbergh. “But that topic is very central to the narrative.”
“I think movies are a large portion of how we have gotten through this incredibly difficult year,” added Sher. “And I think you have to look at the films as well — whether they’re period [or] whether they’re contemporary — they are about the times that we live in.”
She continued, “And they’re beautiful, they’re moving, sometimes they’re painful, but … we need to have hope to move forward. So we have to acknowledge what we’ve been through, and the historic losses we’ve been through, but we also have to fight for cinema and our love of it and the way it has gotten us through things.”
On Thursday, the telecast’s returning director Glenn Weiss (he’s directed the Oscars ceremony for the past 5 years, winning two Emmys for it in that timespan) also spoke with PEOPLE about his vision for the show, and teased a little of what to expect.
It was previously revealed the ceremony will be broadcast live from multiple locations, including the landmark Dolby Theatre and the historic Union Station, both in Los Angeles.
“It’s not going to be 3,000 people in a theater,” he shared. “It’s going to be a very intimate celebration with the nominees. I think the viewer is going to feel like they’re part of this intimate gathering, not that they’re just witnessing something from the outside.”
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While other awards shows this past year have given attendees the option to virtually attend, the Oscars’ producers previously sent all nominees a letter asking them to come to the ceremony in-person.
Asked what that means for the nominees, Weiss said, “I think the nominees are in for a really intimate fast-moving evening as opposed to a bigger show where you could get, I don’t want to say lost, but there’s a lot more going on. I think this is fairly focused on us telling stories about the storytellers because we’re here celebrating them and we’re here celebrating the craft that they do.”
“What you’re going to see is not going to be a standard awards show fare… ‘Ladies and gentlemen, your next presenter coming to the stage.’ It’s not about that,” he teases. “It’s more about a true line of these nominees. It’s learning about them. It’s being with them and being a part of this whole journey of movie-making.”
The show’s theme is “Stories Matter,” and the producers asked those invited to take part in interviews where they’ll share their own personal stories to connect each of them at the ceremony next Sunday.
On the topic of dress code, the producers previously told attendees to avoid casual attire.
“We’re aiming for a fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational, which in actual words means formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but casual is really not,” they said in a previous statement.
The safety protocols for the show include “specially designed testing cadences to ensure up-to-the-minute results, including an on-site COVID safety team with PCR testing capability.”
The list of Oscars 2021 presenters were announced this week, and include previous winners like Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Renée Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix and Laura Dern.
Ahead of the Sunday ceremony, an Oscars: Into the Spotlight special will also air, where Celeste, H.E.R., Leslie Odom, Jr., Laura Pausini, Daniel Pemberton, Molly Sandén and Diane Warren will perform the five nominated original songs. One performance will be recorded in Húsavík, Iceland, and the other four at the Dolby Family Terrace of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, according to a press release.
Hosted by Ariana DeBose and Lil Rel Howery, the special “will highlight the nominees’ journey to Hollywood’s biggest night,” per the release, and will also feature an appearance DJ Tara.
After the Oscars, another special — Oscars: After Dark — will air, hosted by Colman Domingo and Andrew Rannells. The special will feature interviews by film critic Elvis Mitchell and will recap “the evening’s must-see moments” and show “Oscar winners as they have their statuettes personalized.”
The 93rd Academy Awards will air live on Sunday, April 25 starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC.
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