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The 2024 Oscars Producers Preview Their All-Star Presenters, Kenergy, and ‘5,000 Jokes’ to Cut Down

As the Oscars continue to evolve under the watch of Academy CEO Bill Kramer and President Janet Yang, a new trio of executive producers have been tasked with making Hollywood’s biggest night one that millions of viewers will remember.

Though showrunner Raj Kapoor and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” head writer Molly McNearney are no strangers to producing the Academy Awards, having worked on last year’s broadcast (while newbie executive producer Katy Mullan “sat on my sofa and ate popcorn,” she said), this year Kramer and Yang bypassed 2023 Oscar producers Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner in favor of their own homegrown team.

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“There is no expectation that you continually work on the show, because things change and evolve,” said five-year Oscar show veteran Kapoor to IndieWire during a Zoom joined by his new colleagues. “This is the next evolution, the three of us coming together. We are the trifecta this year.”

All three hail from TV, continuing the move away from Oscars past, when different film producers took the reins year to year. As McNearney said, “We all know our strengths. And I don’t feel like there’s any ego here. It is just a love fest.”

Below, the trio tells us a few ways they plan on reaching their goal of making the 96th Oscars “cohesive,” “immersive,” and “innovative.”

Invite back a whole slew of past Oscar winners to present.

True Oscars obsessives often cite the 2009 ceremony as one of the best Academy Awards in recent memory, in part because it was the first time the acting categories were each presented by five past winners. Fifteen years later, with 60 more opportunities to expand the talent pool of available presenters, the trio of producers confirm that the 96th Oscars will once again have Academy Award winners like Nicolas Cage, Mahershala Ali, Rita Moreno, and Charlize Theron on hand to anoint new members of the Oscar winners club.

“We’ve been calling it the Fab Five from the beginning because you’ve got these five incredible nominees, and what better way to celebrate them and honor them than by putting five former winners on stage,” said Mullan. “And one of the big things that we’ve talked about a lot is connection, and how we create that connection between the presenters on stage, the nominees, and the audience at home.”

Kapoor shared that there may be more elements from past Oscars that get remixed into this year’s ceremony. “Your job as an Oscars producer is to honor the show. So when all of us got the gig, we all decided to do homework,” he said. “You go back and you examine what was successful, what worked, but then also what we can innovate and change and make it fresh and look new. So there may be some amazing ideas from the past. But we will put our own spin on it.”

Mullan added, “When we look at how the whole show shapes up holistically, it was really important for us to create some of these moments that felt genuine and authentic.”

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 12: Host Jimmy Kimmel speaks onstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Host Jimmy Kimmel speaks onstage during the 95th Annual Academy AwardsKevin Winter/Getty Images

Have host Jimmy Kimmel level up his jokes.

McNearney, who also happens to be married to the now four-time Oscar host, shared that the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” writers also working on the show have been collaborating with longtime Oscars scribe Jon Macks and his team closer than they ever have before.

“It’s been cohesive and wonderful, and a lot of writers helping each other out,” she said. “We have over 5,000 jokes written right now. And that will be pared down to five pages. So that’s where Jimmy now is, in his head just constantly working over all these jokes, and which ones work the best and which don’t. And it is a real science figuring that out. There will be pages of great jokes that no one will ever hear, which is a bummer, but that’s OK. Because it helps us get to the best ones.”

Getting to see Kimmel and McNearney in action has impressed Mullan even more. “We couldn’t wish for a better host, honestly,” said the producer. “There isn’t anybody that works harder or does better when it comes to hosting.”

That’s partly because the talk show host knows Hollywood. He knows how far to go with the celebrity jibes, and when to pull back. And he has two blockbuster Best Picture nominees to play with that he knows the audience in the room and at home has seen: “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.”

Create a more inviting set.

Kapoor is quick to shoutout production designers Misty Buckley and Alana Billingsley, responsible for creating an awards show environment they hope will be engaging for both the attendees inside the Dolby Theatre, and those watching from home. “We want the show to feel immersive. We want it to feel inclusive. We want it to feel innovative. And at times, we want it to feel intimate,” said the showrunner.

Though there will still be the standard screens on the sides, Kapoor describes the staging as less presentational, and more like a “warm hug” embracing the audience members the show is celebrating. “There’s a connection between the stage and the audience. They’re not two separate things. They are all working together. And that even goes to how winners accept and then leave the stage. Everyone will feel like they are part of the show.”

Get in as much Ryan Gosling as possible.

“The official quote should be the Oscars will have Kenergy,” said Kapoor with a laugh. Not only is “Barbie” star Ryan Gosling a Best Supporting Actor nominee, and recently announced presenter, he will also be performing Best Original Song contender “I’m Just Ken” during the ceremony.

“He’s been incredibly passionate about it, and very involved in his performance,” said McNearney. “He is a total professional. He has met with us multiple times. He’s come to walk the space.” Though the former “Mickey Mouse Club” cast member had been resistant to singing live at the Oscars (especially since he had avoided performing his Oscar-winning “La La Land” tune “City of Stars” at the 2017 ceremony), the executive producer further described Gosling as a “performer at heart. And you will not be disappointed. It’s going to be an epic performance.”

“You can say we’re going big,” said Kapoor. “Big and Ken will be synonymous.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 04: (L-R) Lana Del Ray and Taylor Swift attend the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
Lana Del Ray and Taylor Swift seated for the 66th GRAMMY AwardsMonica Schipper/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

And leave a standing invite for Taylor Swift.

Not that correlation implies causation, but there has been a lot of credit given to Taylor Swift, the biggest star of last year, for the uptick in viewership for live events like the Golden Globes, the Grammys, and the Super Bowl. If she were to not show up to the Oscars this year, would ratings take a hit?

Not according to McNearney. It is still considered Hollywood’s biggest night, after all. “Look at the names of just the nominees alone,” she said. “We’re grateful to be a part of something that people are excited to watch. Our [“Barbie”-themed] promo alone has 27 million views on it. We’re going to be all right.”

That said, Swift does seem to have some free time after her tour stop in Singapore on Saturday night, and was invited into the Academy last year, so if she were to want to stop by the ceremony on Sunday, there’s still room. “Listen, we all love Taylor. She’s the best cheerleader you could ever possibly have in any audience, whether it’s the NFL or an award show,” said Mullan. “So if she wants to get on a plane and come to the Oscars, then we’ll hold a seat for her, 100 per cent.”

The 2024 Oscars will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, March 10. Late night comedian Jimmy Kimmel will once again serve as the host, with the telecast streaming at 7 p.m. ET on ABC.com, Hulu Live TV, and YouTube TV in addition to broadcast.

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