An "Intimate" Evening With Hugh Jackman

In this image released by ABC, Hugh Jackman, host of the 81st Academy Awards, is shown on Jan. 28, 2009. Jackman will host the awards show for the first time, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 airing at 8:00 p.m. EDT on ABC. ** NO SALES ** AP Photo/ABC, Brett Ratner

Hugh Jackman says he knows the Oscars ceremony isn't about him, but he'd better enjoy it all the same.

"Celebration is the key. I'm certainly going to have a good time. If I'm not going to have a good time, how the hell is anybody else?" said Jackman, who sounded up for the job in a phone interview Friday, less than two weeks before the Feb. 22 ceremony airing on ABC.

Academy Awards producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon have said they plan to take the ceremony in a new direction. Asking the multitalented star of "Australia" and the "X-Men" films to host was their first apparent step.

The rest of the details have been under wraps, but Jackman, who thrice soared as host of the Tony Awards, dropped a few hints - including a more "intimate" look for the ceremony's home, the Kodak Theatre.

AP: How would you compare your Tony experience to that of the Oscars?

Jackman: The Oscars is obviously a very different beast. There's a lot of hype. There's so much anticipation. ... I chatted with Steve Martin on the phone who gave me some great tips. The first five or six minutes you're going to have possibly the best audience you've ever had in your life, because all of them know they're going be on camera at any moment, none of them have lost yet and they're all sort of generally ready for a good time. He said from that point on, just move it on quickly. Just be quick.

In terms of style, there's a quantum shift happening this year, and fingers crossed we get a lot of it right. ... There's an obvious amount of business that has to happen in the night. There's 24 awards; you can't change that. But I think Oscars could do a little more of the show in show biz. I think there's been a little too much business.

AP: The producers intend to try different things. Does that add to your excitement or trepidation?

Jackman: I think it's great. ... Obviously I'm not a standup comedian and generally there's been comedians who are actors as well (who) have been doing it for the last however many years. So there's not the same pressure. I don't think people expect me to come out and do seven minutes of bang-bang-bang jokes. ... They really just encourage me to do what I feel I do best. It's a night to have a feeling of celebration, of community.

The look of the theater is very different. It's more like the nightclub of your dreams. It's very intimate. ... It's got to be a lot closer. It's been a little austere in the past. You know, there's that stage, the host being up above the stalls, looking down at everybody. ... But this is a lot more intimate. It's still spectacular, being in the Kodak Theatre. But it's a real difference in the way things are laid out.
By Lynn Elber
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