Make a winning entrance

Times Staff Writers

The red carpet leading into the 80th annual Academy Awards ceremony might have appeared to be a place of barely contained chaos, but upon closer inspection, there are some rules that seem to guide and challenge the celebrities (and mere mortals) who tread on the world's most famous rug.

Reporters stay behind the hedge, rain drops remain in the clouds, publicists smile even as they dig their expensively manicured fingernails into the forearms of their rivals. And the biggest rule of all, as certain as gravity pulls you down, is the one that says you never stop moving.

Fresh from the set of the post-apocalyptic film "The Road," Viggo Mortensen sized up the path to the Kodak Theatre entrance and smiled a grim smile. "This road is more daunting than the road in the movie I'm making -- and that one has cannibals."

Don't eat your own kind isn't technically a rule of the Oscars carpet, so we've managed to compile a few of the more obvious strictures that emerged Sunday afternoon.

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Arrive fashionably late

Except this year. Usually the only people who show up before 3:30 p.m. are TV stars hoping to make the jump to film, or old-timers. But presenter and performer Amy Adams and nominees George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson all were part of the early arrivals -- with good reason, considering the gray skies above.

"It doesn't look good out there," Heidi Klum said as she whisked pass the assembled world media with her husband, the presumably waterproof Seal.

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Bring a conversation piece

Nominee Glen Hansard of "Once" brought his weathered guitar and olive-green guitar case. If you don't have a familiar face, it helps get the media attention, as the makers of "Happy Feet" showed when they brought stuffed penguins down the carpet last year.

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Plan ahead

"I brought sneakers for after so I can move fast and still feel my feet," said Jason Reitman, nominated in the director category for "Juno." He also said he is planning on tapping into the zeitgeist of the moment with a new project penned by his "Juno" scripter Diablo Cody -- "Jennifer's Body," which sounds maybe not so much like Oscar material. The plot, he says: "It's like the girl in 'Juno' got possessed and started eating her classmates."

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Never let them see you sit

Lead supporting actress nominee Ruby Dee, 83, finished with the first segment of the media hedge, and, as she approached a raised platform where AMC host Robert Osbourne was interviewing celebs for the P.A. system, she decided she needed a break from her heels. She turned, hitched up her gown a bit and sat down on one of the steps. Her handlers looked stricken and gently raised her up before any academy snipers or, worse, publicists, spotted her.

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Bring backup

In addition to the perfunctory battalion of award show support staff -- the stylists, gown wranglers, make-up artists -- some stars enlisted extra helpers for Oscar night. A visibly pregnant Jessica Alba had a woman carrying the train of her burgundy dress. "I'm not nervous. I just don't want to trip," Alba said.

Lead actress nominee Laura Linney said the essential decision isn't what to wear, it's who to bring. "You need someone to watch your train to keep from stepping on your gown. You need someone watching to keep your jewelry from going askew. You need someone to get you through [the] press line. It's like a NASCAR pit crew. I am just the car."

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Keep to your own

Comic cohorts and card-carrying members of the Judd Apatow comedy posse Jonah Hill and Seth Rogan faced the red carpet gantlet as a team (with their respective dates) while also looking very much like teammates. Both actors were rocking the "pot-bellied guy with curly hair, nerdy glasses and two-day stubble" look to impressive effect.

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Take your time

He might have been one of the first A-listers on the red carpet Sunday, but that didn't prevent Clooney from lingering in the arrivals area longer than almost any other celebrity. By the time he entered the Kodak Theatre, the "Michael Clayton" star had been doing interviews, schmoozing and hugging fellow award season darlings such as Josh Brolin and Philip Seymour Hoffman for an hour and 41 minutes. "I'm nervous pretty much all the time when I come to these" award shows, Clooney said. "But I think it'll be other people's night, so the pressure's off."

Just then, the crowd began cheering and screaming "George! George!" -- over and over. "I'm related to most of them," he joked.

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Shaq isn't shy; you shouldn't be either

There's precious little real estate on the red carpet and more than a few sharp elbows. The publicists and reporters do most of the jockeying, but some stars get involved too. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson used his considerable size to insert himself (gently) into an on-air interview with James McAvoy of "Atonement" -- the Scottish actor looked a bit puzzled but carried on. Then Gary Busey added to his nutty rep by horning in on E!'s Ryan Seacrest interview with Linney and Jennifer Garner. Busey burst in, kissed Garner and tried to engage a stunned Seacrest in conversation . . . . Guess they'll let anybody into award shows these days.

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geoff.boucher@latimes.com

chris.lee@latimes.com

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