Inside the Oscars rehearsals: What to expect from the 2020 Academy Awards

The production team rehearses at the Dolby Theatre for the 92nd Oscars.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

On the day before the Oscars, you might imagine that Hollywood’s biggest stars are busy getting their final dress fittings, squeezing in a last-minute manicure or hitting an exclusive party.

And although all of that may very well be true, any celebrity presenting at the 92nd annual Academy Awards also had a required stop to make Saturday: the Dolby Theater, where Oscar rehearsals were underway.

The awards show draws more eyeballs than any other on television, and it’s also the only one that requires star presenters — barring extenuating circumstances — to run through the show in advance.


It doesn’t matter if you’re two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks or up-and-coming starlet Beanie Feldstein — the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wants to make sure everyone is as prepared as possible come Sunday’s three-hour production.

Inside the Dolby less than 24 hours before the telecast, the stage is almost entirely set. Steadicam operators roam around the theater, ready to catch all the action. Set pieces have been placed on wheels and wires. Screens play clips from all the relevant films. All that’s missing, really, is the audience — the best of the 3,400 seats are marked with seat placards reserved for A-listers.

Starting at 9 a.m., the presenters start rolling in. Most have their publicists in tow, and many are sporting athleisure. They quickly debrief with head stage manager Gary Natoli and director Glenn Weiss to run over their stage cues, and then they’re on. The talent read lines off a teleprompter a couple of times, even presenting fake (way less golden and heavy) Oscars to actors who have been hired to stand in for pretend winners. Each actor or actress probably spends about 20 minutes inside the theater, max.

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Feb. 9, 2020

From the audience — where the Los Angeles Times had a front-row seat near “Brad Pitt” and “Leonardo DiCaprio” — we watched the rehearsals go down on Saturday and have the following to report:

Stars pay attention to the pundits, too

Tom Hanks arriving at the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

After Tom Hanks went over his lines, he asked the show’s producers where in the lineup his presentation would fall. “How soon after I lose to Brad Pitt?” he joked, referring to his supporting-actor competition, who has thus far swept the category all awards season. “I can come out a little angry, like [monotone], ‘Congratulations, Brad.’ ”

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Natalie Portman is never not prepared
You may have heard about the intense research that the actress has put into playing ballet dancers, astronauts and first ladies. And although presenting an Oscar isn’t exactly quite as serious, the 38-year-old still wanted to make sure she got it right. She double checked how many potential winners could be coming to the stage and then questioned how to properly make her exit. “Is there any etiquette of sticking behind the winner?” she asked Natoli, then dutifully followed behind the trophy-holders.

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Feb. 8, 2020

Actresses aren’t experts at walking in heels, either
Regina King turned up wearing a hooded Nike sweatshirt, a bandanna and sunglasses — and a pair of stilettos. Mindy Kaling did the same, sporting a sweatsuit and winter coat with a pair of strappy shoes. No, this wasn’t some new take on casual chic — the actresses wanted to make sure they didn’t trip in their heels before wearing them on the show Sunday. On rehearsal day, there were no stumbles.

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Timothée Chalamet isn’t above getting star-struck
The “Little Women” star arrived a few minutes early to rehearsal and was shocked when he found himself face-to-face with Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. “Ohh!” he said, covering his mouth as he looked up at the two comedians on stage. “What up, what up! Right in front of me. You guys set the bar high.” As the actresses ran through their act, the 24-year-old giggled from the front row. Afterward, when his co-presenter, Portman, came to greet him, they fretted about following the two “SNL” vets. “Uh, by the way, they’re right before us,” Chalamet told Portman. “Oh, God.”

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Actress and singer Chrissy Metz works with the production team onstage in the Dolby Theatre during Friday rehearsals for the 92nd Oscars.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

On Friday, when the performers behind the year’s best songs all sang on stage, Diane Warren showed up to watch Chrissy Metz sing the song she’d composed for “Breakthrough.” From the sidelines, Warren — who has been nominated for an Oscar a whopping 11 times — threw her arms over her head as Metz hit the high notes and snapped photos of the singer from her iPhone. “Look at all these famous people who are gonna be in the audience!” Metz called out to the songwriter from the stage, pointing at the seat cards. “Scarlett Johansson. I’ve heard of her.”

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Jane Fonda can pull it together after a night out

Jane fond joins protesters in a march during her Friday Fire Drill.
The day before Oscar rehearsals, Jane Fonda joins protesters in a march that began at L.A. City Hall to address climate change and oil drilling.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The social justice warrior — who has been making headlines for her climate change protests over the last few months — made it through her act without a hitch. But as the 82-year-old sauntered off stage, she apologized to the stage manager for her performance, anyway: “I’m hungover, so I made a few mistakes. But I won’t be tomorrow!”