Past Oscars host Hugh Jackman to Chris Rock: Stay focused

Hugh Jackman

Actor Hugh Jackman was the host of the 2009 Oscars. Comedian Chris Rock will be the host of Sunday’s awards ceremony.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Chris Rock doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who gets nervous before he goes out to perform. If he did, though, he might want to heed a piece of advice from former Oscars host Hugh Jackman: Don’t look too closely at the stage manager.

Jackman, who presided over the show in 2009, said he was cool as a cucumber for most of the run-up to the telecast. He didn’t feel anxious at all -- not through rehearsals, not that morning, not even the time spent in hair and makeup before the show began.

Then something -- or someone -- kicked in.

“I wasn’t scared until right about 30 seconds before airtime,” Jackman recalled to the Los Angeles Times earlier this week.


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“And then I see Valdez [Flagg], who’s been the Oscars stage manager I think for more than 25 years. And I’m standing there in the wings and I look up and Valdez is giving me a countdown. Everything just slowed down, and I felt slightly nauseous. He goes ‘Ten seconds. Oh, and there are only a billion people watching you.’” Jackman laughed. “If you look at the tape of me entering you can still see me looking back into the wings.”


Rock, of course, has hosted before -- a controversial appearance in 2005 -- and made his bones as a stand-up comedian. So he may not get those butterflies in the same way, no matter how many eyes are on him -- or how tricky the task of playing both to the room and the TV audience in these diversity-charged times.

But he might nonetheless appreciate a thought from Jackman, who himself received some advice from a past host before he went on.

“Steve Martin told me the first 45 minutes is the best audience you’ll ever have. And then the room starts filling up with losers, so just hurry up and get to the end.’

Jackman, who coincidentally has a new movie opening Oscar weekend -- the feel-good sports tale “Eddie the Eagle” -- has been working the road circuit himself on behalf of the movie, criss-crossing the country to promote the film. (He did the same for “Pan” in the fall.)

The actor said he did, however, have time to catch up with a number of Oscar movies. And there was one clear standout in his mind.

“‘Spotlight,’” he said, referring to Tom McCarthy’s journalistic procedural about the Catholic church sex-abuse scandal. “I don’t know if that’s the film that will win. But I think that’s the film that deserves to win.”

Twitter: @ZeitchikLAT


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