Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, producers of the 2015 Oscars, are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to revealing what fans can expect from their high-profile awards show each year. But as we get closer to this Sunday’s broadcast, more and more details are beginning to emerge. In preparation for your Oscars viewing party, here’s Vulture’s guide to this year’s Academy Awards — including who will host, perform, present, and more — which we’ll update as new information comes in.
Because they work mostly behind the scenes, producers Meron and Zadan don’t get nearly the credit they deserve for making the Oscars go off without a hitch (or so they hope) year after year. This is their third consecutive year producing the Oscars — the first team in 16 years to do so — and they’ll be joined this year by director Hamish Hamilton (Beyoncé's Super Bowl halftime show), choreographer Rob Ashford (Peter Pan Live!), set designer Derek McLane (Peter Pan Live!), music director Stephen Oremus (Frozen), and supervising orchestrator Harold Wheeler (Dancing With the Stars) as well as a crew of hundreds.
We’ve known since October that Neil Patrick Harris will host this year’s Oscars for the first time — a feat that puts him just one Grammys hosting gig away from being the first to accomplish a hosting EGOT (he’s previously hosted the Emmys and the Tonys). Since then he's dropped some hints about what he has planned: Harris announced on Twitter in January that Frozen writers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez have penned a special number called “Moving Pictures,” described as an “original multimedia, musical sequence” that he’ll perform with special guests (more on them later).
As for his all-important opening monologue, that’ll be written in collaboration with Emmy-winning head writer Dave Boon and his team and, according to Harris, may or may not include a reference to his infamous Gone Girl penis shot (yes!).
Given Harris’s awards-show track record and his background in musical theater, it’s safe to assume that, like Hugh Jackman before him, most of his sketches will involve quite a bit of song and dance (“We’re going to be using people in interesting ways,” he warns). And if NPH gets his way, he says we’ll also get to see him work his literal magic on the crowd — no, really, he’s a legit magician.
As always, all of the artists up for Best Original Song are slated to perform. Adam Levine, joined by Maroon 5, will perform “Lost Stars” (from Begin Again); John Legend and Common will perform “Glory” (from Selma) — sadly, this time, without an intro from Beyoncé — Tegan and Sara and the Lonely Island will perform “Everything Is Awesome” (from The Lego Movie); Tim McGraw will perform “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me) in place of the ailing Campbell; and, yes, Rita Ora will perform “Grateful” (from Beyond the Lights) even despite all the shade songwriter Diane Warren’s recently thrown her way.
The Oscars also recently announced that Lady Gaga will make her Oscars debut for what they’re calling a “special tribute performance.” Jack Black is also set to perform in a “very special sequence,” as are Jennifer Hudson and Anna Kendrick.
Of what we can expect from these “special” performances, Zadan and Meron have vaguely described it as an “only on the Oscars moment.” But given Hudson’s powerhouse vocals and notable past tributes — remember her Whitney Houston homage at the Grammys? — it’s likely she’ll sing during the in memoriam montage. (Zadan has even said hearing her rehearsal gave him goosebumps.)
As for Gaga, Black, and Kendrick — and whoever else may pop up — I’d keep an eye out for them during NPH’s “Moving Pictures” musical number.
Here is the confirmed list of presenters at this year’s Oscars: Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Liam Neeson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Channing Tatum, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Cate Blanchett, Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Viola Davis, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Evans, Kevin Hart, Josh Hutcherson, Scarlett Johansson, Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Lopez, Jared Leto, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey, Sienna Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz, Eddie Murphy, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Margot Robbie, Zoe Saldana, Octavia Spencer, Meryl Streep, Miles Teller, John Travolta, Kerry Washington, Naomi Watts, Oprah Winfrey, and Reese Witherspoon.
(Though, as Zadan has teased, more names may be announced before Sunday night.)
Update: Terrence Howard and Felicity Jones have been added as presenters.
As per Oscar tradition, the previous year’s winners in the four major acting categories (Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Lupita Nyong’o, and Jared Leto) will each present the award for the opposite gender of their respective categories at this year’s ceremony.
But aside from those four, the obvious highlight of this year’s presenters is John Travolta, who will somehow attempt to redeem himself after last year’s “Adele Dazeem” pronunciation mishap. (Though I’m sure we’re all secretly wondering whose name he’ll butcher this year.)
All of the presenters’ dialogue will be written this year by Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash).
Sure, on a scale from liberal to conservative, the Oscars are more Clint Eastwood than Angelina Jolie — but, still, it's the Oscars, which means anything can happen (planned or not). The producers, of course, haven’t said much, but Zadan has been quite coy in his tweets about the likelihood of surprise guests at this weekend’s show:
Honestly there were potential surprises for the show but they were iffy. As of today, they are locked in so they will all happen next Sun!— Craig Zadan (@craigzadan) February 16, 2015
The Oscars air February 22 at 7 p.m. EST on ABC.