Kane, the Overland Park-based voice-over artist, could be in an Oscar rehearsal at this very moment. But when we caught up with him earlier this week, before he jetted to Los Angeles on Thursday, he had just recorded a few in-and-out-of-commercials, or “bumpers,” and sponsor tags in his home studio.
For example (and this is where you have to imagine his Regular Guy voice switching instantly to Announcer Guy): “Air transportation provided by United Airlines!”
When we chatted, Kane hadn’t even read the script he’d been sent. Wouldn’t have mattered anyway: He has sworn (in writing) not to divulge anything about this year’s Oscarcast. Sunday night will be his fourth stint behind the mic; this year he’s sharing announcer duties with Melissa Disney (apparently a distant relative ofthe
Kane was happy, however, to toss us a few glittering behind-the-scenes morsels from Oscars past:
Only the hugest celebrities — George Clooney or Brad and Angie, for instance — can get away with skipping Oscar presenter rehearsals on the Friday and Saturday before the Sunday telecast. The whole crew is in place for those rehearsals, including the announcers and sit-ins for nominees in the audience.
And when star presenters rehearse (often in sweatpants and with hair in ponytails), the envelope they rip open even includes a winner’s name — but not necessarily the actual winner, of course. The presenter reads something like, “For purposes of this rehearsal only, the Oscar for best actress goes to ” That’s so, if some unauthorized camera phone happens to capture the sound bite, it can’t be construed as an authentic Oscar moment.
Then the cameras go to, say, the fake Meryl Streep in the audience, and one of the announcers reads the “walk-up” narration as the star heads to the stage: “This is Meryl Streep’s 157th nomination and 33rd win” or whatever.
The walk-up is the most nerve-racking part of the Oscar announcer’s job, Kane says.
He’ll have the show’s script supervisor at his elbow, and the moment a winner is announced, she’ll hand him the copy to read for whichever actor won. The block of copy is the same length for everyone, but the winner might take 20 seconds to get to the podium. Or five seconds.
Meanwhile the director, in Kane’s headset, will be saying “Slow it down” or “Kill it! Kill it!” depending on how fast the star is moving.
Kane thought his partner, Disney, might have the walk-up announcing duties this year, which is fine with him.
At least Ms. Theron isn’t nominated:
An announcer needs to know how to correctly pronounce the stars’ names. Kane has learned, for instance, that director Martin Scorsese’s last name is “score-SESS-ee.”
“Celebrities and directors will just blow a freakin’ fuse if you mispronounce their name,” Kane says (a line we’d love to hear intoned in his official Oscar voice).
If there’s any question about how to say a name, the Oscar producers will send someone to a nominee’s office with a digital recorder and have the person utter their name.
We predict this year’s challenges will come from “The Artist”: acting nominees Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo and, especially, director Michel Hazanavicius.
Live from ?:
Because Eastman Kodak Co. declared bankruptcy, the Kodak Theatre — built with the Academy Awards in mind — is no longer named that. Kane got the word Monday, so instead of saying “Live from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood,” it’ll be something like “Live from the corner of Hollywood and Highland” or “Live from Hollywood Highland Center.”
Sit down NOW:
Besides announcing for the TV audience, Kane also makes “house announcements” that are heard only by those in the theater. These are usually of the hurry-up-and-sit-down variety: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Academy Awards will begin in 30 minutes. Please make your way to your seats.”
Kane adds: “They have me get a little pissier as the announcements progress.”
Shut up NOW:
Those long-winded stars who ignore cues to wrap up their thank-yous and get off the stage? “I’m usually the one who cuts them off,” Kane says.
The show has “definitely gotten more ruthless about that as time has gone by,” he says. “The network won’t allow that anymore.”
The director will say “Play ’em off,” the orchestra will launch into a tune, a few more seconds will tick by and then: “Kill his mic, announce.” That’s Kane’s cue (“The 84th annual Academy Awards will continue ”).
We were surprised to learn that Kane was asked just a few weeks ago to work the Oscarcast. But the late hour didn’t surprise him.
“That’s pretty normal,” he says. “It’s just not that important. They’ve got a stable of people who’ve done this and can do it. In the scheme of things, (the announcer) is pretty far down on their list of things to worry about.”
Why him again? Why Melissa Disney?
“It’s not that we have some unique sounds,” Kane says modestly. “It’s just that we don’t screw up. It really comes down to that.”