February 23, 2009

OSCARS 2009: Red carpet no-shows irk photogs

Among those less than enthused with the changes to this year's Oscarcast were the red carpet photographers.

There was much grumbling among the shutterbugs over the Academy's new policy of having some stars (Jennifer Aniston, Kristen Stewart, Katherine Heigl and Jessica Alba) enter through an off-camera back entrance. This way, their stylish couture was revealed for the first time when they came onstage to present or with key money shots during the telecast.

While this may have been an attempt to buck up the ratings, the photogs didn't see it as benefiting their finances.

"Magazines want photos from the red carpet -- the stars have spent hours getting ready and they're prepared to pose," said one. "We sell these photos all year. This is a disaster both for us and for the designers who want their dresses seen at the Oscars."

There were a few presenters on the red carpet who definitely expressed the feeling -- either verbally or with eye rolls -- that if they were coming to the Oscars, they were coming through the front door.

"We refused," said Phoebe Cates with husband Kevin Kline about going through the back entry. Sarah Jessica Parker laughed and said "We've been advised not to answer that question" when asked if she was nudged to skip the red carpet. And Miley Cyrus was clear she wanted to show off her gown.

"I didn't just walk into a store and just find this," said the young singer-thesp of her Zuhair Murad gown. "This is not a place to be toned down."

But even without some of the presenters, the scene on the carpet seemed active enough. Maybe down a bit from last year, but not by much.

"It a circus," said "The Reader" helmer Stephen Daldry, "but I like coming to a circus."

There were many facets to the fashion circus. Philip Seymour Hoffman wore a black wool watchman's cap. And Mickey Rourke was in a white suit, open at the collar with a picture of this recently deceased Chihuahua in a pendant around his neck.

Rourke noted that it's been 15 years since he's been invited to the Oscars. "You pay a price when you do things your way," said the best actor nominee.

And while the overwhelming feeling was joy at attending, Frank Marshall spoke for more than himself when he said: "I feel great but I'm glad we're at the end of the season."

Still, as in years past, being on the red carpet offered a consistent joy in show business -- relative unknowns relishing the recognition of an Oscar nomination.

"This is like a Cinderella story for me," said supporting nominee Taraji P. Henson. "Designers are throwing clothes and jewels at me -- it's an incredible ride."

Richard Jenkins who was nommed as actor for "The Visitor" said the experience "is amazing. And I'm eligible for Social Security next year."

"This is the epicenter of the glamour bomb," said thesp Michael Sheen, who was with the "Frost/Nixon" team. "When you're here, you know no other place on Earth is more glamorous."

Dev Patel, star of the multi-nominee "Slumdog Millionaire," still had his watch set to Bombay time. He said what he wanted most from Oscar night was a chance to meet Jim Carrey. "He's my idol," said the Indian thesp.

And on the less glamorous end of the film business, Irene Taylor Brodsky, whose docu on India's battle with polio "The Final Inch" copped a short documentary nod said: "This is the Holy Grail for documentary makers. This brings up a world of recognition we'd never get without the Oscars."

And then there's always Judd Apatow, who's more accustomed to big box office than awards accolades. Up for a short film nom, Apatow surveyed the scene and said, "I feel like a parasite on the back of the Oscar."

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