Oscars Producers Talk “I’m Just Ken”, Nude John Cena & Bob Iger Making The Call To Start Late – Contenders TV: Doc + Unscripted

Oscars Producers Talk “I’m Just Ken”, Nude John Cena & Bob Iger Making The Call To Start Late – Contenders TV: Doc + Unscripted

Ratings were continuing to climb for the 96th annual Oscars that took place March 12, especially following the all-time lows of the pandemic years. With Jimmy Kimmel returning for his fourth stint as host and second in a row, reviews were upbeat for the most part and the show benefited from a good movie year with blockbusters like Barbie and Best Picture winner Oppenheimer.

Oscarcast executive producers Raj Kapoor, Katy Mullan and Molly McNearney (who also was a writer) and director Hamish Hamilton joined Deadline’s Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted event to break it down.

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McNearney, who is also married to Kimmel and is executive producer and co-head writer of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, talked about how they approached creating Kimmel’s key opening monologue. “Well, this year we did something new which I thought worked really well. We used the staff at Jimmy Kimmel Live!, so all of Jimmy’s writers — there are 19 on staff that really know his voice very well, and we also teamed with the incomparable Jon Macks, who is an excellent award-show writer, and he had three writers of his own who were exceptional, and we did everything together,” she said. “So, if they had a monologue joke they wanted to throw to us, we looked at that. If they needed a little help with presenter copy or if we had a great idea for that, we worked together. And then a lot of times it’s, at least in my experience in the past there, it was Jimmy’s writers who wrote the monologue and then the award-show writers wrote the presenters’ presenter copy, but this year we all worked together, which was really great.”

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Some of that monologue was aimed at stars and nominees sitting in the audience, except there was a huge problem with arrivals including protesters blocking traffic routes into the Dolby Theatre, and many weren’t in their seats at the new early start time of 4 p.m. PT. The producers revealed the unprecedented decision to delay the start of the show by five minutes was made by none other than Disney’s (which owns Oscar network ABC) Bob Iger. Once the show did start, the monologue could proceed without last-minute changes.

Mullan, a first-time producer on the show, talked of the pressures they were under and pulling off the massive “I’m Just Ken” song performance with Ryan Gosling. ”I mean, there was a moment when we were all sitting at the producers table in the first rehearsal, and there was like 60-70 Kens everywhere in that theater and Ryan Gosling walking it through with the incredible Mandy Moore, who was choreographing it with him. And I think all of us were having an out-of-body experience,“ she said. “It was so fun to be able to do a performance like that on that scale, on one of the biggest stages in the world, It was like a real like bucket-list moment, because everybody wanted to see ‘Ken’ sung live. It took a lot of work and collaboration and effort into making that moment happen. And you know, Ryan went out there and absolutely nailed it, and I personally know people who’ve watched it like 65 times and are obsessed with it still.”

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Hamilton, who twice before has directed the Oscar show, emphasized it is those kinds of moments that really make it work. “On any great number like that in any great show there’s a huge amount of planning. You know the story beats, you know the choreography beats, you know the emotional beats, but you can’t stick to a rigid plan because you miss the chemistry in the room, and you know, it’s 50 percent kind of planning and calling it to the plan you’ve got, and then you know, finding those moments that are out there in the room. I’d have to have a very bad day to mess that up, really.”

Another much-praised aspect of this year’s show was coming back to the idea first done on the 2010 Oscarcast which brought on five previous acting winners (including the most recent) to present the acting Oscars to this year’s class. Kapoor talked about how it came about. “I mean it really started with us doing a deep dive into Oscar’s history and past shows and looking at things that really resonated with us, and I think collectively we agreed that we wanted to tell stories, that we wanted to feel connectivity, that we wanted people to feel emotion. So, what better way to do that than peer on peer?” he asked.

“And so, we have five amazing winners talking to five current nominees, and that connection and that kind of love that was very exuberant at times, touching, it was part of our storytelling. It was a challenge for sure. We have to credit Taryn Hurd, who was one of our producers, who worked tirelessly to find us people that were connected to each other, that had stories to tell, that wanted to honor somebody else, and so all of the all of them somewhere had a legitimate connection, and that and that was really a lot of detail, a lot of deep diving, a lot of extra hours.”

Even with all the extra time allotted to those presentations, the show actually for the first in memory came in under the planned 3½ hours.

“We’re in a position of great trust and positivity here. What will be will be,” said Hamilton. “Let’s just kind of make it the best that it will be, and the time will be what it will be, and actually we came out 10 minutes early, which is amazing.”

Check out the panel video above.

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