Next year's Academy Awards are going stag--no dances, no dancers, no Being John Malkovich tango.
The producers of the 2000 telecast dropped the bombshell ban at a Thursday press conference in Beverly Hills.
Veteran Hollywood power couple (but Oscar-show newbies) Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck said they just aren't big fans of dance numbers--hence, they're out. It's all part of the Zanucks' mandate to make the scheduled three-hour telecast move along at something other than, you know, a (heavily drugged) snail's pace.
"Whatever we do will be pretty fast-paced," Lili Zanuck told reporters.
And whatever they do must come at the expense of certain show staples, à la the dances. "Sometimes you have to cut frames," said the Oscar-winning movie producer (Driving Miss Daisy).
Lest you think (and/or hope) the Zanucks, who admittedly weren't big on specifics Thursday, were idly talking about killing the dance, think again. Academy spokeswoman Jane La Bonte today confirmed that while the show, to be broadcast March 26 on ABC, is still in the early planning stages, there are no current plans for dance numbers.
Just like the Zanucks said.
So where does this leave Debbie Allen?
The onetime Fame star, better known these days as the lady who makes up all those funny dances for the Academy Awards (and the Emmys and the...), was said to be making like Suddenly Susan and taking a "hiatus." (Translation: She wasn't available for comment.)
It was just last year that Allen, a veteran Oscar-night choreographer, broke new ground and dreamed up a five-person, interpretive-dance set that had awestruck audiences asking, "Who knew Saving Private Ryan worked so well in tap form?"
Last year's no-frills sequence was a good, if unintentional, example of how song-and-dance numbers, once the star of the Oscar show, have been de-emphasized. If the 1989 debacle pairing Rob Lowe and Snow White didn't doom the tradition, then the public's ever-diminishing lack of interest in variety performers did.
In other Oscar news, gagmeister Bruce Vilanch, last seen being lauded in the documentary Get Bruce!, has been tapped head writer for the 72nd Academy Awards, with character actor Peter Coyote (E.T.) being named the announcer. The unseen Coyote also will introduce certain presenters--a role usually reserved for the host.
The role of the host, by the way, has yet to be filled. The Zanucks said they were "waiting on" Billy Crystal. "He's kinda born to do this job," Richard Zanuck said.
Crystal last hosted in 1998. Whoopi Goldberg did the honors at this past year's ceremony.