Oscars 2014: Exec Producer answers burning questions

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Image Credit: John Shearer/AP

Why were so many speeches allowed to go on for so long? Did host Ellen DeGeneres let the stars know ahead of time that she’d be collecting donations in Pharrell’s hat? EW caught up to a dead-tired Craig Zadan — who co-executive produced the Oscars for a second time with Neil Meron — at Sunday’s Governors Ball. Fortunately, Zadan was lucid enough to answer a few burning questions.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tonally, the show was a lot different from last year.
CRAIG ZADAN: We never want to do the same thing twice. It’s like when we did our movie musicals, Chicago and then Hairspray. They are not the same. We said if we are going to do a movie musical again, let’s do something that is radically different from Chicago. We said if we do the Oscars a second time, we can’t have people saying, ‘oh, they are just repeating themselves.’ And I don’t think we did. But with live TV, you don’t know whats going to happen until it happens. You can’t count on anything.

You really didn’t play any winners off the stage.
We knew as long as the speeches were emotional, we weren’t going to do that. If they weren’t good speeches, we would have played them off. But they were really good. I’ve never seen so many standing ovations.

How did you get Bette Midler to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” for the In Memoriam segment? Was this her first time singing at the Oscars?
Yes. We’re very good friends with her. We did Gypsy with her on TV. We’ve known each other for 20 years or whatever. We called and said, ‘you’ve never performed on the Oscars, and this is what we want you to do.’ She said okay. This year was interesting because everybody wanted to be on the show. Ellen made everybody comfortable. Last year I tried to get people like Will Smith and he couldn’t do it or whatever, and this year it was like, yes. All of these stars wanted to do the show.

Ellen was a talent magnet?
Yes.

All the bits Ellen did with the audience … were those improvised?
When we rehearsed this week, she would say ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that.’ But she wouldn’t do it. It was all improvised during the show. Ellen said to Meryl, for instance, ‘I’m going to go into the audience and play with you.’ Meryl said, great. That’s as far as it went.

How are you feeling now that the show is over?
Exhausted. We haven’t been to bed in so long. We had less than two hours sleep last night. We came in early this morning, and we had to rehearse with Bill Murray and Whoopi Goldberg because they just got into town. By the time we did our dress rehearsal I literally couldn’t stand up. I felt like I couldn’t get through the day. You’re in a zone. You don’t know where you are.

How does this experience feel different from last year?
It’s all about the planning. Having done the show last year, we learned how to do it. It made a big difference. You can’t know how to do the show unless you do the show. We were making everything up like, ‘well, we think we should do this.’ We learned.

Any category that surprised you tonight?
What I thought was going to win in my head actually won. If I was doing an office pool, I would have won!

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