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Last Updated: Monday, 28 February, 2005, 11:08 GMT
Reporter's log: The Oscars
By Helen Bushby
BBC News entertainment reporter in Los Angeles

The eyes of the film world have been on Hollywood for the 77th Academy Awards. The BBC's Helen Bushby reports from Los Angeles on the atmosphere after the movie industry's biggest night of the year.

Monday 28 February 0200 local time (1000 GMT)

Vanity Fair party
Vanity Fair pulled out all the stops for the party
I've just left the organised chaos of the Vanity Fair party entrance, having rushed there in a cab from the rather more sedate Oscars press room.

I was crammed into a narrow press pen just outside Morgans Restaurant, where the exclusive party is hosted every year by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.

Sandwiched next to BBC One's Breakfast and GMTV, I had a prime spot, although it was not prime enough to merit an outdoor heater. I've never seen so many goose pimples.

We could tell when someone famous was approaching because of the whoops and screams of the crowds lining the street outside.

The party attracted lots of big names, including Hilary Swank, Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sean Combs, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty, Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame), Imelda Staunton, Mike Leigh, Pierce Brosnan, Alan Alda, Kelsey Grammar, Laura Linney, Sophie Okonedo and Jeremy Irons.

Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett was among the stars avoiding the press
It was like birdwatching but with movie stars - wherever you looked one appeared from the shrubbery of the party's entrance, with the women (usually the lesser-known ones) displaying a great deal of plumage.

Of course this meant it was incredibly noisy - the press screamed the stars' names at full volume to try to grab their attention. This, coupled with the shrieking crowds outside Mortons, made it hard to hear yourself think.

"Hilary honey, over here, over here, c'mon Hilary, congratulations on your Oscar," was pretty typical of what was being shouted, although it was not enough to get Hilary Swank to talk to the press again.

All the commotion made it very hard to hear what anyone was saying, even though I was practically standing in front of them.

One of the most interesting comments I heard was from Aviator producer Graham King, whom I met a couple of days ago.

He told BBC One's Breakfast he thought it was "disgusting" that Martin Scorsese had not won best director, and that despite their five prizes it was a "bittersweet" night for them.

This is pretty outspoken - most of the winners and losers are very gracious about it and very few say what they really think.

Sophie Okenedo
It was extraordinary. The red carpet thing was - well blimey
Sophie Okonedo
I was told by the other journalists that Scorsese had turned up before I got there and he wouldn't talk to the press at all. He posed for his picture and then went straight inside.

British nominee Sophie Okonedo was more than happy to chat, however, and admitted she had not seen many of the films up for Oscars.

"I've got a whole batch of tapes to watch back at home," she said. And as for facing the crowds before the ceremony, they rendered her almost speechless.

"It was extraordinary. The red carpet thing was - well blimey," she said. Having seen it first-hand, I could see what she meant.

Morgan Spurlock
Dining out: Super Size Me's Morgan Spurlock was among the guests
Outside the press area were hundreds of people desperate to get in, keen to beg, borrow or steal my precious press pass.

I was bemused by just how excited everyone was. Perhaps it was a result of spending so long in the Oscars press room, where it became par for the course to see Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood in the space of half an hour.

But rather than the craziness of Vanity Fair, the press room gave you ample time and access to the stars, who were more than happy to talk and take questions.

Clint Eastwood was delighted that two old-timers - himself and Morgan Freeman - had won their Oscars, and joked: "Yeah, we're taking over Hollywood."

He also spoke warmly of host Chris Rock, saying: "I think Chris did a nice job tonight."

This was the general consensus in the press room as well, and Rock's performance prompted much laughter from the rows of journalists.

Hilary Swank talked about how tough it was to find good roles for women, and said her last really good one had been for her first Oscar five years ago for Boys Don't Cry.

Jamie Foxx said if good roles didn't come his way for a while he'd be fine. He is also a stand-up comic, and could just go back to doing that.

Sean Combs
Sean Combs was another guest
And Chris Rock took full advantage of being backstage to do all the swearing he refrained from during the TV show. He turned the air blue for a minute or two.

He hailed the wins for African Americans Foxx and Morgan Freeman, saying: "It's always good to see a little colour in the room that don't have mops in their hands."

So my trip to the Oscars is almost at an end. It has been fun, challenging and extremely eventful.

However my final surprise came in the press room when US journalist Sandy Kenyon leaned over and gave me a present.

"Have this for the plane journey home," he said, handing me a book.

It was a copy of his wife's latest book - an erotic novel for women. Like I said, there's never a dull moment in La-La-Land.

Sunday 27 February 2200 local time (0600 GMT)

Chris Rock, Hilary Swank, Jamie Foxx and Clint Eastwood all came into the press room one after another and the room sprang to life.

After a whole evening of acceptance speeches the room was flagging somewhat, with journalists declining to see some of the less well-known winners, but when the big names came in, the room was electric.

The biggest round of applause was saved for Eastwood, who spoke of his affection and respect for Martin Scorsese, and said it was a shame the press created a rivalry between their films.

No doubt there will be plenty more to come in Monday's papers.

I'm off to see if I can make it to the entrance of the Vanity Fair party now - it's been a busy day and it's far from over.

Sunday 27 February 1940 local time (0340 GMT)

Of all the winners to come through backstage, Morgan Freeman and Cate Blanchett have grabbed the most attention.

Both were modest and articulate about their wins.

Freeman also said "Hollywood would continue to make history" if fellow African-American Jamie Foxx wins best actor.

And Blanchett laughed and joked with the press about how she would become a "diva" now she had her award and called the journalist an "asshole", much to everyone's amusement.

Sunday 27 February 1715 local time (0115 GMT)

I'm logged in, wired up and ready to go in the press room, where I'm surrounded by journalists feverishly typing into their laptops.

We've all been here for three hours now, giving us time to read our e-mails, call our offices and, of course, enjoy a huge plateful of food from the spread laid on by the Academy.

The Academy are on hand to help us out with anything we need and there are plenty of staff on hand to cater for the 25 tables of journalists.

To my right is a stage lined with flowers and 10-foot Oscar towering above it. The winners will be rushed in to speak to us only moments after making their acceptance speeches.

In the background the song Hooray for Hollywood being pumped into loudspeakers - the biggest night in showbiz is about to begin.

Sunday 27 February 1245 local time (2045 GMT)

The sun is cracking the blue skies overhead and below them Hollywood is buzzing with excitement.

The Oscars are just hours away and people have been flocking to the stands, where members of the public can watch the stars arriving for the ceremony.

Helen Bushby glams up for the stars
So this is it...I'm off to the ceremony

TV and radio crews are also in position and endless broadcasts from the red carpet are being blasted across US TV channels.

The area near the ceremony is deserted, however - police cordons have been set up and road blocks are everywhere.

Many of the shops are shut as well, making the side streets look like a ghost town.

But on the edge of the red carpet it is anything but quiet.

Tabitha Schneider and Anja Witossek, from Munich, Germany, came to LA especially to see the Oscars arrivals.

But unfortunately their flight home is in one hour's time, as they thought the ceremony was on Saturday.

"We couldn't believe it when we found out," they told me, looking mortified at their mistake.

Tabitha Schneider and Anja Witossek
Tabitha and Anja came to close to seeing the stars

"But we're definitely coming back next year."

Another bystander said she just wanted to see what the actors looked like in real life, but declined to give her name - star-spotting is not a sport everyone wants to admit to.

I will have to get into the press room shortly to claim my spot and set all my equipment up. Security will be very tight.

I also had to navigate the security cordons this morning to find a place where I could be picked up in a taxi after the ceremony, to whisk me off to the Vanity Fair party.

This proved to be no mean feat - having received differing answers from the Academy and several police officers as to where the cordons ended, I had to ask the men setting up the road blocks in the end.

I just have to hope my cab will wait if the ceremony over-runs, so along with Oscars producer Gil Cates and no doubt lots of TV viewers, I'll be willing the winners to keep their speeches short.

Sunday 27 February 0100 local time (0900 GMT)

It was elbows out all the way to try to wrestle my way into the Razzies worst film awards, which were held last night at a small theatre near the Oscars venue.

Halle Berry (left) and Alex Borstein
Oscar-winner Halle Berry collected a Razzie for the film Catwoman

Despite having my name booked there in advance, I was herded outside onto the street along with about 30 others, including journalists from Sky News.

The box office staff apologised profusely, saying there weren't enough seats, and fire regulations prevented them from over-filling the theatre.

Not one to give up easily, I persisted at the door several times and was stunned when I managed to persuade one of the staff to give up her seat, just before the curtain went up.

Her husband looked a bit surprised when I sat in the place he'd saved for his wife, but she explained it was more important that the BBC see the show than her.

The Razzies turned out to be highly entertaining.

Having been told they would be a low-key affair, I was very surprised to witness Oscar winner Halle Berry claim her worst actress prize for Catwoman, prompting a roar of approval from the audience.

The red carpet for the Oscars ceremony
The red carpet - not so glamorous

The show itself was slick and witty with three genuinely funny musical numbers, and Berry was very good value - it took real guts to turn up.

She did brandish her Oscar to prove she can back a winner as well, but I can't say I blame her.

As I walked back - yes, I did walk in LA - I took one last look at the red carpet before the day of the ceremony.

Needless to say it was still not looking much like the red carpet you see on TV, but it was buzzing with people still working on putting it all together and the plastic tenting has finally been moved.

This must be a sign it won't rain tomorrow - things just keep getting better and better.

Saturday 26 February 1510 local time (2310 GMT)

It's all go behind the scenes at the Oscars press room, which is located in a plush hotel behind the Kodak Theatre.

Captain America at the Oscars
Tourists love the Oscars razzmatazz, including posing with superhero Captain America
After wading my way through the crowds, I arrived armed with my laptop and an army of wires and gadgets, eager to find out if they would work on Sunday night.

After being scanned and searched by police at the entry point, I was assigned to a table which I'm sharing with journalists including Sandy Kenyon, entertainment correspondent for Parade Magazine.

Sandy, a former CNN senior reporter, has done all this 12 times before and I was bowled over by how helpful he was.

He gave me the lowdown on how best to make my way from the ceremony to the Vanity Fair party entrance - it's about one and a half miles (two and a half kilometres) away and I'm going to have to navigate endless security and closed-off roads to get there.

He said I'd be stopped by police if I was found walking the streets on my own late at night, as "no-one walks anywhere in LA".

With his help I should make it - he used to live in LA and was a mine of information on all aspects of covering the ceremony.

He also told me about how he got rare access to the Oscars rehearsal room, where he chatted with the show's producer Gil Cates and host Chris Rock.

Sandy recounted: "Cates said to Rock 'You look like you don't have a care in the world', to which Rock replied 'I don't have a care in the world, I'm just gonna go out, smoke some dope and get ready to do the show. Just kidding, of course'."

Elvis impersonator at the Oscars
Even Elvis is keen to put in an appearance at the Oscars
He asked Cates if he was worried about whether Rock, famed for his cutting-edge humour, would land the Oscars in hot water.

Cates assured him Rock said he never swore in front of his mother - and she was going to be at the ceremony.

Sandy spotted where Rock's mother would be sitting - "about five rows back of Leo DiCaprio and it's closer to the centre - it looks like she's got a better seat!".

He chatted about his years working in LA and told me he and his wife, who writes "erotic novels for women", now live in a mews in Manhattan, New York. I imagine they make a colourful couple.

The Academy's technical support team are also incredibly helpful - they ensure that my laptop works and I get high-speed internet access almost instantly.

The head of the team even gives me his mobile number, saying if I have any laptop problems when I get back to my hotel I should give him a call and someone will come over to help out.

Now that's what I call room service.

Friday 25 February 2150 local time (0550 GMT Saturday)

Helicopters whir overhead above the seemingly endless construction of the red carpet area. It doesn't look any closer to being finished, although given this is the 77th Oscars, they must know what they're doing by now.

Preparations
Preparations for the ceremony appear slow
Huge images of the gold statuette are splashed across the side of the theatre and inside stalls selling Oscar sweatshirts, caps and jackets begin to set up. It's like watching a huge machine being cranked into action.

My main priority was ensuring I'm primed for the big night by picking up my accreditation passes for the press room and Vanity Fair party.

On my way out of the hotel I was introduced fleetingly to Aviator producer and Oscar nominee Graham King by a BBC colleague.

Mr King paused to chat for a moment, saying his schedule has been wall-to-wall parties that seem to have the same set of guests each time. He said he spent the last one he was at sat outside smoking with Johnny Depp. Sounds like they're ready for the ceremony to start.

With my passes safely stowed I made my way back to the hotel in a cab. The driver turned out to be an ex-ABC news cameraman who had worked on the Oscars ceremony numerous times.

Oscars merchandise
There are plenty of souvenirs on offer
He said it always involved "busting your butt" to jostle for space on the red carpet, and that he had got bored of hearing the same questions put to the stars.

"Why don't they ask them about what type of dog they have or something?" he said. "That would be far more interesting than hearing them say yet again how they feel about being nominated."

I wasn't so sure about the dog bit, but I understand where he's coming from.

Since the nominations on 25 January there has been an almost constant trickle of Oscars information released to the media, including exactly how each star feels about being up for an award.

When I spoke to British nominees Mike Leigh and Imelda Staunton earlier this week, they were both impeccably polite, but I think they had done their fair share of interviews.

Still, it's all showbusiness and no one is complaining too loudly - we all get something out of it.

Back at the hotel I shared a very enjoyable lunch with BBC Talking Movies presenter Tom Brook, who said he only just made it out of JFK airport before the snows closed in on New York yesterday.

Shadow of gold statuette
Most participants are just keen to get on with the show
Tom has done the Oscars several times before and is used to nabbing stars on the red carpet, often just after they've been given the once-over by Joan Rivers. His friendly face must be a welcome sight after that.

Next port of call was a meeting with all the BBC TV and radio staff to discuss the logistics of covering the ceremony.

The room was awash with crisps, chocolates and huge beakers of fruit juice.

Everyone is still jetlagged and waking up in the small hours (myself included) and there's a lot to be worked out.

After a bit of negotiation everything is sorted and we all go our separate ways.

We're ready for Oscar.

Thursday 24 February 1345 local time (2145 GMT)

Who said going to the Oscars would be glamorous? I've just spent the best part of last night and this morning getting to grips with a myriad technical problems on my laptop.

Joan Rivers
Large posters of Joan Rivers tower over Hollywood

I'm now extremely well versed in the finer points of DSL modems with USB connection. I bet Kate Winslet doesn't have this problem when she hits Hollywood Boulevard.

Keen to make up for lost time I headed out into the sunshine to the Kodak Theatre to see the latest preparations for the ceremony.

Huge, clear plastic tents have been erected in case the heavens open and make the carpet soggy (anyone remember the soapy, wet carpet at the Baftas a few years ago?), and although much of the area is cordoned off, you can still sneak inside.

The main attraction seemed to be a glittering staircase that snakes its way up to the theatre itself.

The Kodak Theatre, venue to the Oscars
You can still sneak inside the Oscars venue
I couldn't help but notice a burst of flashbulbs when I appeared, but I'd just happened to walk in as a group of tourists photographed each other in the heart of Hollywood.

Oscars are everywhere, with shops selling replica models by the bucketload, although they look more like Star Wars robot C3PO than the real thing.

A scarily large poster of Joan Rivers' surgically enhanced head looms overhead, advertising her celeb-tastic pre-ceremony TV show.

The shops next to the theatre are also getting in the mood by blasting out show tunes, and several shoppers burst into song when The Sound of Music was played.

Fake Oscars in a Hollywood shop window
Take home an Oscar for any occasion... or is it C3PO?
I beat a hasty retreat at this moment, only to be accosted by a man in a Shrek mask and costume, who seemed keen to get acquainted for some reason.

Many of the locals give Hollywood Boulevard a wide berth as the Oscars approach and I can see why - one told me it just gets too "crazy".

It's a surreal world of tourists, security and of course plenty of journalists, with huge satellite trucks starting to line the streets for their broadcasts.

But without the stars it makes for a strange spectacle. No doubt it will feel very different on Sunday night.

Wednesday 23 February 2330 local time (0730 Thursday GMT)

The snow of London is a dim memory as the plane lands on the tarmac of Los Angeles, where I'm greeted by sunshine, palm trees and the famous white Hollywood sign glinting in the distance.

But this is a rare treat, as LA has been awash with torrential rain and there's plenty more to come. It's like home from home - everyone is talking about the weather.

Jack Nicholson's lookalike
Jack Nicholson's lookalike bore an uncanny resemblance to the actor
Another hot topic of conversation is, of course, the Oscars, which take place on Sunday just around the corner from my hotel.

The area has already been cordoned off with barriers to protect the red carpet from the constant flow of onlookers. Mammoth structures of scaffolding and lighting are being put up while trucks beetle about below laying cables.

Several rooms away from mine in the hotel, BBC One's Breakfast crew are preparing tomorrow's programme and the room is a blur of people rushing in and out, grabbing food, doing voiceovers and flicking editing switches.

Jetlag seems to be preoccupying them, and some are still in their pyjamas.

Marlon Brando and Chaplin lookalikes
Marlon Brando and Chaplin together: Only in La-La-Land

And if I needed any other confirmation I'm in La-La-Land, I need look no further than the lobby of the hotel, where a motley selection of lookalikes are gathered for the Reel Awards, a convention which gives a prize to the most convincing double.

I spot dead ringers for Jack Nicholson, Elton John and Willie Nelson (plaits and all), although I was surprised to find out that Charlie Chaplin's double was a woman - Audrey Ruttan - who told me she's Hollywood's "official" Chaplin lookalike. From a distance she looked like the real thing.

They all tell me they're here for the experience rather than to win the big prize. I wonder how many of the real stars will say that on Sunday.




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