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Oscar Preview

Aired February 25, 2007 - 19:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Rick Sanchez in the CNN NEWSROOM with a look at what's happening right now for you in the news. Health concerns for Iraqi President Jalal Talibani. He fell ill earlier today and was rushed to neighboring Jordan. According to his son, Talabani is being treated for fatigue and exhaustion.
Every is alive and accounted for after a house to house search in Dumas, Arkansas. Yesterday severe weather destroyed many homes and businesses and knocked out power and phone service in the area as well.

And this story, Nicolas Cage is still cruising to the top of the box office. His comics-based thriller, "Ghost Rider" had enough fiery horse power to keep it number one for a second week in a row. The film took in nearly $20 million this week.

Well, tonight we're doing something a little special over the next hour. We usually bring you hard news. Tonight we're going to toss it out to the people who know a lot more about Hollywood than we do.

So we'll take you out there. And then tonight at midnight, we're going to have another CNN Oscar special. It will be your back stage pass to the after parties. By then we'll know who the winners are, of course. That's tonight at midnight Eastern Time.

And of course you know the routine. I'll be standing by. If news breaks, I'll break in. Here's our special.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Live from the 79th Annual Academy Awards, this is "Hollywood's Gold Rush."

Oscar excitement. It could lead to shock and awe. Al Gore goes before voters again. This time an Oscar is at stake.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I am involved in a different kind of campaign.


VARGAS: Nip tuck inside the making on of an Oscar gown.


UNIDENTFIED MALE: There is 30 yards of chiffon just on the bottom part of the dress. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VARGAS: And before they were nominees, what the stars looked like before they made it big.

It's Oscar time in Hollywood and the stars are primed.


EDDIE MURPHY, ACTOR: It's just a wonderful thing.

FOREST WHITAKER, ACTOR: I'm hoping I'm going to have one of the greatest nights in my life.


VARGAS: Live from the Academy Awards this is "Hollywood's Gold Rush."

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the live coverage of the Oscars. I am Sibila Vargas alongside A.J. Hammer.

A.J. HAMMER, CNN HOST: And we are looking out on Hollywood Boulevard where the red carpet is rolled out. And right down there in the middle of the action, our co-host Brooke Anderson. Hey, Brooke.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Hey there, A.J. Hey there, Sibila.

I'm right here live on the red carpet as the stars make their way into the Kodak Theater on the biggest night in entertainment, the Oscars. The 79th Annual Academy Awards. Will Smith, best actor nominee, has arrived. We have also seen Jackie Earl Hailey (ph), best supporting actor nominee.

Also Jennifer Lopez is here. She is a presenter tonight. Maggie Gyllenhall just came by, as well as some other big stars including former vice president Al Gore and his wife Tipper making their stroll down the red carpet. And his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth: is up for two Academy Awards, including best documentary and best original song for Melissa Etheridge.

Melissa Etheridge also here on the red carpet. And I'm going to be interviewing all the stars as they make their way through this red carpet parade. Right now back up to you guys.

HAMMER: It's a beautiful partly cloudy, almost a little chilly day. But that's good because nobody is schvitzing, Sibila.

VARGAS: Nobody. It's OK. The cold is all right. You have to look absolutely gorgeous so at least the sun came out this morning so it warmed up a little bit and what an extraordinary day.

HAMMER: And just under an hour away from show time.

VARGAS: And A.J., one of the biggest stories tonight has to be the amazing diversity of the nominees this year. HAMMER: Of the 20 acting nominees, eight people are people of color. A record five black nominees this year. That includes Forest Whitaker, Will Smith, of course in "Dreamgirls" Eddie Murphy and the wonderful Jennifer Hudson all nominated tonight.

VARGAS: What a story she is. Not long ago Hudson got kicked to the curb on "American Idol" but she never let that keep her down.



VARGAS (voice-over): It would appear they do. And for Jennifer Hudson, what a journey it's been.

JENNIFER HUDSON, ACTRESS AND SINGER: When I was 19 years old, I cruised the feeds (ph) working for Disney. When I was 21 I was on "American Idol," the number one TV show and I toured with the idols at 22. So 23, 24 I was filming "Dreamgirls." What am I, 25 now, I'm a Golden Globe winner and now I have a record deal.

VARGAS: Long before "Dreamgirls" made her a household name, seven year old Jennifer Hudson got her start here, singing at Pleasant Gift Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. Back then the Oscar nominated song bird was hardly the star attraction.

HUDSON: And they never wanted to give me a chance. I guess because I was so young they didn't think I could do it. But eventually it went from, no, you can't have a solo to now I can't walk into church without singing.

VARGAS: Hudson grew up in Chicago's rough Inglewood area where she attended the same school as music greats Lou Rawls and the Staple Sisters.

HUDSON: And that's one of the things that inspired me growing up as a kid, knowing that I can be in the presence of, so that must mean I can achieve it.

VARGAS: But not without tremendous difficulty, including a very painful, very public seventh place dismissal from "American Idol".

SIMON COWELL, "AMERICAN IDOL": Let me sum this up for you, I think you're out of your depth in this competition.

HUDSON: Once again, even after "Idol" it was like there was absolutely nothing. What is next? What do I do?

VARGAS: Then came the call that would change Hudson's life forever.

With no acting experience, Hudson beat out 780 actors for the part of Effie White. The role earned her a sweep of this year's acting awards and a catapulted her to stardom.

HUDSON: It's like, ahh! VARGAS: Now strolling through the Roosevelt Hotel where they handed out the first Oscars, the once defeated dream girl is now on top poised to take Hollywood's biggest prize.

HUDSON: I'm a normal girl, just like the girl next door who had a dream and went after it.


VARGAS (on camera): And we wish her nothing but the best. And who knows, maybe we'll see her on the red carpet. But for now Brooke Anderson has a presenter out there. Brooke?

ANDERSON: I certainly Sibila. I am joined now, can you see this beautiful lady? Jennifer Lopez, she is looking stunning, and her husband Marc Anthony. Good to see you both.

JENNIFER LOPEZ, SINGER: Thank you so much.

ANDERSON: All right. First of all, I want to talk about the diversity of this year's Oscars. Of the 20 acting nominees, eight minorities, five black actors, two Mexican actors, one Asian actor. What do you think about that? Has Hollywood made progress?

LOPEZ: I think it has made a lot of progress. For us, for the Latino community, it is an incredibly special year because I think we have almost 20 nominations altogether in front of and behind the camera. So it's an amazing, amazing year for the Latin film making community.

ANDERSON: And you were here last year presenting as well.

LOPEZ: Yeah.

ANDERSON: So you're here again presenting. Take the stage. What is it like for you to be here this ...


ANDERSON: Oscar night. How do it feel? I mean, it's huge.

LOPEZ: You know, it's the biggest night of the year for our industry. And it's a big celebration. And you can just feel the energy in the area. It's a really beautiful, glamorous night. Everybody comes out all decked to the nines. It's just nice. It's a real celebration and you can feel that energy in the air. Don't you think when you go inside?

ANTHONY: No question. The electricity is palpable, you know?

ANDERSON: And you guys are multi-talented, not only film stars but in music as well. You're working on "Border town" next, is that right?

LOPEZ: Actually, the next film I have coming out will be "El Cantante" which I produced, which Marc stars in as well. And we're very excited about that. We're in the Toronto Film Festival.

ANDERSON: Let me ask you this. What's it like working together as a married couple? Because a lot of people tell me they can't do it.

What's it like?

LOPEZ: It's funny. For us we met each other working. So it's kind of natural for us and organic. It wasn't that big of a deal for us.

ANTHONY: It's actually the most fun we have ever had, you know?

LOPEZ: We get to be together every single day and we get to play and do what we love to do.

ANDERSON: That's true love right there. Have a great time tonight. Good to see you both. You look lovely.

Sibila, back up to you.

VARGAS: She did look lovely. Now joining me now to talk more about the Oscar race is Mike Fleeman, west coast editor of "People" magazine. Thank you so much for joining us. Now, 11 years ago the Reverend Jesse Jackson was calling for a boycott of the Oscars for ignoring blacks. And he still has issues with how Hollywood does business. But you have to consider, this is a historic time for African American actors. And African actors as well.

MIKE FLEEMAN, "PEOPLE MAGAZINE": Certainly. Three of the four top acting categories, the favorites are African American actors. Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker. Of course I think Jackson would say behind the camera there are still problems but certainly tonight is going to be a banner night.

VARGAS: He says there's something like 110 African-Americans that constitute the academy members, which are over -- close to 6,000. Is there a problem there?

FLEEMAN: Look when they scan the audience at the Academy Awards and how many white faces there compared to what we are going to see on screen. I think that's symbolic of what he's talking about.

VARGAS: Let's talk about "Dreamgirls" a little bit because we got two nominees.

FLEEMAN: That's correct.

VARGAS: We've got Jennifer Hudson and of course Eddie Murphy. What are their chances?

FLEEMAN: They are both considered favorites. Jennifer Hudson is considered a lock for her category. Eddie Murphy, I think he is the favorite right now. It's theirs to lose.

VARGAS: Well let's talk a little bit about Jennifer Hudson. Her performance. Why has she become the dream girl, the Cinderella story, really?

FLEEMAN: You can go to a movie theater and she sings that song, people stand up and applaud in the movie theater. It's one of those moments that transcends film. It's amazing. That's what people are honoring.

VARGAS: And Forest Whitaker, he is the top contender, wouldn't you say?

FLEEMAN: I would say so. Forest Whitaker is an actor's actor. He has long been popular among his peers. And this is his moment. This is the role of a lifetime.

VARGAS: Mike, we are running sort of out of time, so I'm going to have to go. But we'll be catching the action as we go on. That's - we -- and "Hollywood's After Party" live on CNN midnight Eastern and coming up next, we've got some more live interviews with the stars, live as they arrive for the 79th Academy Awards. Plus ...


WILL SMITH, ACTOR: You know, I was man crying during that time.

HAMMER: Man crying?

SMITH: Man crying. It's not really crying.


VARGAS: The inspiring story that almost moved Will Smith to tears. And stars on pins and needles face fashion designers with pins and needles. We're behind the scenes of the making of an Oscar dress but first match wits with a real brainiac. The winningest man in "Jeopardy" history puts your Oscar knowledge to the test.

KEN JENNINGS, "JEOPARDY CHAMPION": Hi, I'm Ken Jennings, all time "Jeopardy" champion with some Oscar trivia taken from my book, "Brainiac."

First question, who is the only person to win both an Oscar and Nobel prize? I'll have the answer coming up.


JENNINGS: Here's our first Oscar trivia question again. Who is the only person to win both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize? The answer? George Bernard Shaw. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and an Oscar in 1938 for helping to adapt his play "Pygmalion" to the screen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you take me for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all right. He ain't a copper. He is a gentleman. Look at him.


VARGAS: Thanks, Ken. And the stars are pouring in for the 79th Annual Academy Awards. And our Brooke Anderson is on the red carpet right now with a presenter. Brooke, who do you have?

ANDERSON: Hi there. I have John Travolta and his lovely wife, Kelly Preston. Good to see you both.

JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: Good to see you. How are you?


ANDERSON: I'm doing great. Now Kelly, here you are in animal print. You don't see that very often.

PRESTON: You don't - it was a choice. He gave it to me for Christmas. It's a Dolce and Gabbana and I thought it was so fabulous that I had to wear it.

ANDERSON: Listen to you, John, picking out the clothes for the Oscars.

TRAVOLTA: I pick out my wife's clothes.

PRESTON: Pretty good, huh?

ANDERSON: Well, you're here presenting tonight. And a friend of yours, Tom Cruise, also here presenting tonight as well. I want to ask you, what do you think about all the scrutiny and the speculation surrounding not only Tom but sometimes you guys as well and your religion of Scientology? People are always very curious.

TRAVOLTA: We think it's doing great right now. It's expanding and doing beautifully. And we're very proud of our religion. So that's always been constant for me for 32 years now.

PRESTON: I think people are interested, too. There is so much -- Why is it working so much? Why are there so many Scientologists and so many people that are interested?

TRAVOLTA: We're only getting bigger and bigger.


ANDERSON: And you're putting your talents to work coming up in a new movie this weekend, right? "Wild Hogs"?

TRAVOLTA: "Wild Hogs" comes out this weekend and then tonight our dear friend Forest Whitaker is up for an Oscar and I believe he's going to win. We're going to celebrate with him tonight, which I'm looking forward to. And what can I tell you? I believed in him early on. He did "Phenomenon" and "Battlefield Earth".

ANDERSON: Here he is with his first Oscar nomination.

TRAVOLTA: Fantastic.

PRESTON: He's so brilliant.

ANDERSON: Thanks so much for stopping by. John Travolta, Kelly Preston.

And A.J., I also want to talk a little bit about best documentary. But it's not very often that here at the Oscars one of the main categories people are talking about is best documentary feature but tonight that's happening.

HAMMER: Yeah. A lot of buzz going on and that is being "An Inconvenient Truth," which is the documentary about Al Gore's campaign to combat global warming is one of the nominees this year and a front runner in the category. And Brooke, you were right there at Sundance when the buzz was just beginning as he unveiled the film last year.

ANDERSON: I was, indeed, A.J. Sundance 2006. Little did we know "An Inconvenient Truth" would go on to make such a political impact.


GORE: The scientific consensus is that we are causing global warming.

ANDERSON: "An Inconvenient Truth" has generated a tremendous response beginning with its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last year.

GORE: The reaction from the audience just couldn't have possibly been any better.

ANDERSON: Al Gore's documentary about the dangers of global warming has earned more than $24 million at the box office and two Oscar nominations, best documentary and best song.

But for many this acclaimed film's impact extends far beyond Hollywood.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No one can talk these days in Washington about global warming without mentioning Al Gore, "An Inconvenient Truth", that they have seen the film. It's just become part of the public discourse.

ANDERSON: CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider says even the president joined the conversation.

SCHNEIDER: I remember watching the state of the union and it, whoa, wait a minute, this is important.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT: And they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.

SCHNEIDER: This is a president who always said it may be happening, it may not be happening. Now he's treating it as a fact. And I think the film really helped do that.

ANDERSON: Has any specific legislation on this topic been passed?

SCHNEIDER: The governor of California has gone further than any government that I know of probably in the world to deal with the crisis of global warming. He has a carbon emissions thing, one of the most ambitions in the world, to reduce emissions here in California by 10 percent.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CA: California is leading the way.

ANDERSON: Director Davis Guggenheim hopes the federal government takes California's lead and, in turn, inspires the whole country.

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM, DIRECTOR, "AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH": The truth is it is going to take all of us to figure this out. Principals of schools, heads of corporations, you know, mothers and fathers. We've got to figure it out.

GORE: This is really not a political issue so much as a moral issue.

ANDERSON: Gore, who will be a first-time attendee at this year's Academy Awards is thrilled his battle against global warming has found a powerful ally in Hollywood.

GORE: I have tried to tell this story for 30 years. And I've had a chance to see what a huge difference is made when you have these kinds of talented people who make a message entertaining and compelling.


ANDERSON: Al Gore is here as a presenter tonight. And remember if "An Inconvenient Truth" does win the Oscar, that technically goes to Davis Guggenheim and not Al Gore, who is the focus of the film. A.J.?

HAMMER: Brooke, we're back here with Mike Fleeman, who is the west coast editor of "People" magazine. Now I think I already know the question to this, Mike, because in a lot of cases the hybrid cars have replaced the limousines at the Academy Awards but what kind of reception do you think Al Gore will be getting here tonight?

FLEEMAN: This is clearly Al Gore's room. A lot of people showed up in electric limousines tonight. It's a very liberal leaning crowd in the academy, a very green crowd. So I think he's going to get one of the biggest receptions of the night.

HAMMER: And the night really could get political. Because also in the documentary category, a couple of films about the war in Iraq, a big topic of discussion here tonight at the Academy Awards.

FLEEMAN: Yes. "My Country, My Country", "Iraq in Fragments." Both not so much political movies but very personal movies. They went behind the news cameras and showed you the people of Iraq and how they're dealing with the war. In many ways, that's almost more political than anything else.

HAMMER: Somebody is even flying a plane over the red carpet with a banner saying, "Bring our troops home." Brooke back to you on the carpet with one of tonight's presenters.

ANDERSON: Hi there, A.J. I'm here with Steve Carell and his lovely wife Nancy. Good to see you both.

STEVE CARELL, ACTOR: Good to see you, too. ANDERSON: Let's talk "Little Miss Sunshine", I've been calling it the little movie that could. I remember when it premiered at Sundance, you and I spoke. And no one there had heard anything about it, obviously. Everybody thought, what is this film? But here it is, this huge success. And now nominated for best picture among other nominations. Did you ever think it would have such success?

CARELL: From day one. I knew it all along, and we all did. And that's the only reason any of us got involved. That was part of our contract. We need a guarantee that we would all be in an Academy Award nominated movie and we would have gotten much more money if that had not been the case.

ANDERSON: I love that confidence.

CARELL: Oh, yeah. Obviously all the way through it was just a fun little movie and sweet and had a nice heart and some great characters. But, no, not at any point did any of us think any of this would happen.

ANDERSON: Why do you think it appeals to so many people? Here it is amongst "Babel," "The Departed", "The Queen", "Letters from Iwo Jima." Here is this sweet little road trip comedy that you filmed in what, 30 days?

CARELL: It was quick. I think it just struck a chord with people. I think people just were ready to have a movie experience where they just walked out feeling good and happy, and I think that's what it did for people.

ANDERSON: Congratulations on all the success. Love the film and love you in "The Office", obviously, too. Thank you. Good to see you. Take care.

Sibila, back up to you.

VARGAS: Thanks Brooke. And when the Oscar telecast is over, it's time to celebrate. We have got your all access pass to the hottest parties in town. Join us for "Hollywood's After Party" on CNN at midnight Eastern.

And coming up next, more interviews with the stars as they arrive at the Academy Awards. So keep it here. And a bodice fit for a goddess. We're behind the scenes as an Oscar dress comes together.

But first, "Jeopardy" Ken Jennings knows his Oscar trivia. How about you?

JENNINGS: I'm Ken Jennings, here with more Oscar trivia for you. What is the only TV series turned movie to be nominated for best picture? Stay tuned for the answer.


JENNINGS: This is Ken Jennings with our Oscar trivia. The question. What is the only TV series turned movie to be nominated for best picture? The answer, "The Fujitive" starring Harrison Ford.


TOMMY LEE JONES, ACTOR: All right, listen up. We have a fugitive that's been on the run for 90 minutes.


HAMMER: You are looking at first time nominees Forest Whitaker and Jackie Earl Haley and we are live at the 79th Annual Academy Awards.

I am A.J. Hammer, and you know, Sibila, if Will Smith wins best actor category tonight he may be crying some man tears.

VARGAS: Man tears? What's the difference?

HAMMER: He told me man crying is when you're feeling very emotional inside and feeling very strongly about something but you want to stay strong and you don't want to let it out. But he says those man tears will be shed if he walks off with that award tonight, see it on the outside. He said those man tears will be shed if he walks out with the award tonight. He was so inspired and shed such tears when he learned the story of Chris Gardner.

VARGAS: That's right. And Gardner is the real person Will Smith plays in "The Pursuit of Happyness."

I traveled to Chicago to meet the man myself.


SMITH: This is such a high point in my career.

VARGAS (voice-over): Will Smith is an Oscar hopeful after a powerful performance in the truth life drama, "The Pursuit of Happyness."

SMITH: Don't ever let somebody tell you you can't do something.

VARGAS: The story follows the life of Chris Gardner, a homeless man who became a millionaire be spite insurmountable odds.

CHRIS GARDNER, INSPIRATION FOR FILM: Anything in the world that could go wrong went wrong. I quit my job thinking I had an internship on Wall Street. Come to find out that's not happening. My ex decides to disappear and takes my child away. I wind up living in a boardinghouse. I get my child back. The boardinghouse doesn't allow children. We're homeless.

VARGAS: Smith was immediately drawn to Gardner's story and worked hand in hand on the set to make sure his portrayal was accurate.

SMITH: When someone essentially opens up their life to you, it's a huge honor and it's a huge responsibility.

You have got a dream, you have got to protect it. VARGAS: Chris Gardner's dreams went farther than he ever could have imagined. Not only has he made a fortune as a stockbroker and written a best-selling book, his journey has compelled him to make a difference in the lives of others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's truly been an inspiration in my life.

VARGAS: Glynetta Bell (ph) is just one of the members of the Cara Program which Gardner supports with his time and money. Since 1991, the Chicago-based nonprofit has helped thousands of poor and at-risk people transition into gainful employment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This time next year I'll have my bachelor's.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he can do it from being way down and sleeping in a bathroom stall, I think it just gave hope back to the hopeless.

VARGAS: Catching up with Gardner at his sprawling firm in Chicago, it's hard to imagine this man, who has mingled with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali, was ever on the brink of despair.

GARDNER: I came close to crying, maybe cracking, but I never came close to quitting. Quitting is not an option. Dr. King put it best when he said once it's not necessary to see the entire staircase as long as you take the next step.

VARGAS: Steps that have helped Gardner in his "Pursuit of Happyness."

GARDNER: I've got one problem right now. I often cannot sleep at night because my face hurts from walking around smiling all day.


VARGAS (on camera): What an inspiration. It was a real pleasure meeting the real Chris Gardner in Chicago. Now he is out here tonight to attend the Academy Award and Brooke is down on the red carpet with a very funny nominee.


ANDERSON: Yes, I am. Hi there, Sibila. I'm here with Sacha Baron- Cohen and his lovely fiancee Isla Fisher. Hi.


ANDERSON: Congratulations. Best adapted screenplay nomination for "Borat". Did you think this guy would garner you an Oscar nomination?


ANDERSON: What do you make of it? You've been criticized a lot for this film, you've been hit with numerous lawsuits. Here you are, you made tens of millions from this thing.

BARON-COHEN: I haven't. ISLA FISHER, ACTRESS: Whoa, who told you about that? I haven't heard about that.

ANDERSON: In the box office it's been a huge blockbuster and yet here you are on the red carpet. How does it feel?

BARON-COHEN: Very exciting. Tingling all over. I'm overwhelmed.

ANDERSON: You made quite an acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. If you take the stage here, what do you have planned?

BARON-COHEN: Nothing planned. I'm feeling fairly pessimistic about today.


BARON-COHEN: Always assume failure. That's my motto. So we'll see. If something happens, I'll run up there and make something up.

ANDERSON: What's next for you? I know you're going to convert another one of your characters to film as well?

BARON-COHEN: Maybe. That's in development. I've just been shooting something with Johnny Depp in England and just a few other projects and a bit of gardening 'round the house.

ANDERSON: When's the wedding?

FISHER: Oh, gosh.

BARON-COHEN: Don't worry, you will be invited.

ANDERSON: Thank you. Best of luck tonight. Good to see you both. Thank you so much.

And we have got Helen Mirren coming right now, I believe. Hi there, Stan. Stan Rosenfeld, publicist for Helen Mirren. But Helen Mirren -- We are live, Stan, yes, we are.

Helen Mirren a leading nominee tonight in the best actress category. All the prognosticators say she will win. She's been a favorite in the critic circles all around the country. She's won the golden globe. And you know what? I think she will be here in a just minute, so while we back, Sibila, back up to you.

VARGAS: Thanks, Brooke, and don't forget after the Oscars the champagne starts to flow. Join us for "Hollywood's After Party" your all access pass to the most exciting parties in town. That's live on CNN at midnight Eastern, and coming up next, more stars are arriving for the Academy Awards and we'll be talking to them alive.

And a major construction project where no hard hat is required. We're behind the scenes on the making of an Oscar gown. But first "Jeopardy" champion Ken Jennings has got an Oscar trivia question for you. JENNINGS: I'm Ken Jennings with more Oscar trivia for you from my book "Brainiac". Who is the only person to win person to win an Oscar for portraying an Oscar winner? Stay tuned for the answer.


JENNINGS: The Oscar trivia yes or no is who is the only person to win an Oscar for portraying an Oscar winner. The answer is Cate Blanchett. She won best supporting actress for playing four time winner Katherine Hepburn in "The Aviator."


CATE BLANCHETT, ACTRESS: Thank you for the academy. I know Katherine Kepburn so well and am so intimately acquainted with her work, this is an indescribable surprise and honor. Thank you.


VARGAS: Welcome back to CNN's "Hollywood Gold Rush" special, the Oscar special. There's a lot of fashion designers right now on pins and needles. That is because they are wondering if their Oscar gown they have lovingly created will actually be worn.

Gilles Mendel is one of those designers who's got his fingers crossed at this very moment.


GILLES MENDEL, FASHION DESIGNER: Oh, my God, every time you see someone wearing one of my gowns on the red carpet, it's a dream. It's really a dream.

VARGAS (voice-over): Couturier Gilles Mendel, 10 days 'til Oscar night. The sewing floor, always busy, is bus always buzzing.

MENDEL: When I see my favorite (inaudible) running to my office, look, look, look, she wore it, she wore it. It's a big victory. We celebrate the whole night.

VARGAS: Gilles Mendel is pretty sure he's dressing a big star for the Oscars, as sure as any designer can be.

MENDEL: You don't know until the very last minute whether your dress will be worn by the celebrity that you've been sending that dress to. It's 30 yards of chiffon on the bottom part of that dress. This is for a lady that I have a relationship who is also celebrity.

VARGAS: Until he's certain the round the clock painstaking work will make an appearance at the Oscars, Mendel won't name names.

MENDEL: This is the second gown that I am doing for a celebrity. At this point I'm really not sure where this dress is going to be, whether red carpet or on stage. Either way I'll be really happy.

VARGAS: That's enough to make the couturier scurry. MENDEL: Last Friday we met the celebrity and I discuss the dress and we have to finish that dress when, tomorrow, no? Friday? So we have seven days.

VARGAS: Twenty-four hours later ...

MENDEL: Last week she had in her hand a little piece of this fabric. She will discover the entire dress made which is pretty emotional for me.

VARGAS: The chiffon dress went from this to this. And ...

MENDEL: In about five minutes, she's going to take taxi to go up town where luckily the lady who is going to be wearing this dress is waiting for a quick fitting. We will have about 25 minutes to do the fitting on her. 5:30 we'll be done with the fitting uptown and I will say bye. By 7:00 I will be flying to Los Angeles. So a lot of attention and love here.

OK. We have to go. On its way. Wish me good luck.


VARGAS (on camera): Good luck, indeed. And joining us now for fashion analysis is Mary Alice Stephenson with "Harper's Bazaar." How about the outfits we've been seeing? What do you think about Helen Mirren?

MARY ALICE STEPHENSON, "HARPER'S BAZAAR": Helen Mirren looked stunning. Christian Lacroix Haute Couture. Gold beaded dress really beautiful. Love it.

VARGAS: As you can see right there there's Eddie Murphy. The men don't really get that much Oscar love.

STEPHENSON: Actually, Armani has a big coup, Mr. Giorgio Armani, on the red carpet tonight. He's dressing George Clooney, he's dressing Mark Wahlberg, he's dressing Martin Scorsese, one after another tonight, Leo Di Caprio also a big Giorgio Armani fan.

VARGAS: We also got to see Jennifer Lopez on the red carpet.

STEPHENSON: Jennifer Lopez is one of my absolute favorites. She's wearing a Marquesa (ph) gown, gorgeous Lorraine Schwartz (ph) jewelry, and an amazing Roger Houvier (ph) clutch. She - this gown is very diaphanous, she looks regal yet still very feminine.

VARGAS: There's Helen Mirren right there. Look how gorgeous she looks. She's always looking stunning. Lately I think she's even been looking a little foxy.

STEPHENSON: I think she's been looking a little foxy. I think a lot of older women are stars on the red carpet right now. Helen is definitely one of them.

VARGAS: Merryl Streep would be another one as well. STEPHENSON: Merryl Streep, the devil will wear Prada tonight. Merryl will be wearing Prada. Very exciting.

VARGAS: You know what, Mary, we're going to stop for a second because we have a special nominee on the red carpet with Brooke Anderson. Brooke, who do you have?

ANDERSON: We do. You guys just mentioned him. That he's wearing Giorgio Armani, correct?


ANDERSON: This is Mark Wahlberg. Huge nominee for best supporting actor. Your first Oscar nomination for "The Departed" and we spoke a few weeks ago at the Oscars luncheon and you said you've come so far that now your parents can be proud. Because years and years ago you were, what, arrested numerous times.

WAHLBERG: I had gotten in a lot of trouble when I was younger and certainly caused my parents a lot of heartache. So to be able to turn it around and make them proud in this way, it is really a blessing.

ANDERSON: Now they can call you with tears of joy rather than ...

WAHLBERG: Exactly. Exactly. And they're all going to be watching tonight.

ANDERSON: How excited are you tonight? Because I know after the nomination was announced you said you couldn't sleep for what, a couple of days.

WAHLBERG: I was actually relaxed today. I was able to take a nap this afternoon. I'm feeling good. Other than needing a bathroom, I'm good.

ANDERSON: We'll let you go in just a second. But I also wanted to ask you about your director, Marty Scorsese. His sixth nomination for best director. He's never won the award. Everyone thinks this is the movie he will win it for.

WAHLBERG: Tonight is definitely the night. And I look forward to celebrating with Marty later.

ANDERSON: What are you going to do later on after the show?

WAHLBERG: Hopefully celebrate.

ANDERSON: Hopefully so. Well, we'll let you run. I know you have business to take care of, so to speak. Mark Wahlberg, congratulations. Thank you.

Sibila, back up to you.

VARGAS: I think I know what he wants to do. Brooke, I think he's going to do a little dancing. Don't forget to join us for "Hollywood's After Party," your ticket inside the most glamorous Oscar parties in town and that's at midnight Eastern live on CNN. We'll keep the champagne cooled until then. Coming up next, more interviews with the stars as they hit the red carpet runway and Oscar nominees before they hit the big time. We have uncovered some footage they probably wish would disappear. First, more Oscar trivia from our all- star "Jeopardy" champion, Ken Jennings.

JENNINGS: Here's another Oscar trivia question for you. Actress Penelope Cruz could win an Oscar for her role in the Spanish-language film "Rolber" (ph). Who is the only woman to win an Oscar for a role not in English? The answer coming up.


JENNINGS: The Oscar trivia question is, who is the only woman to win an Oscar for a role that was not in English? The answer Sophia Loren. She won best actress in 1962 for a film in Italian.

VARGAS: Thank you so much, Ken. We're back with fashion expert Mary Alice Stephenson of "Harper's Bazaar." What do you think of Cate Blanchett? Because she looked so stunning to me on that red carpet.

STEPHENSON: Cate Blanchett is a style star. Tonight she is wearing Armani Privez (ph). It is an asymmetric one-shouldered dress. It went down the runway in January in haute couture. This dress is just absolutely gorgeous.

VARGAS: I think people will definitely be talking about her dress tomorrow, don't you think?

STEPHENSON: Yeah, metallics are a big trend tonight on the red carpet. And this is a tool with jet black beading over silver metallic.

VARGAS: I think when it comes to Cate Blanchett though she really never does anything wrong, right?

STEPHENSON: She never gets it wrong. Absolutely not. And what's so great about Cate is she loves to jump around. She wears Valentino, she wears Gauthier and Armani. And she changes and that's what great style is all about.

VARGAS: Is it her stylist? Or is it her? Who picks out her clothes?

STEPHENSON: I think Cate Blanchett -- I've worked with her for covers of "Harper's Bazaar." She has a great sense of style. She's one of our favorites.

VARGAS: I have got to talk about Beyonce.

STEPHENSON: Beyonce. She looks amazing tonight, she is also wearing Armani Privez. Big, big coup for Armani tonight on the red carpet. This is an amazing also asymmetric dress, very decorated. Look at how gorgeous it looks.

VARGAS: And it's also light. And I think that has also been somewhat of a theme as well, this light color. STEPHENSON: Light colors, metallics. You will see Kate Winslet soon in a sea foam green. Very ethereal, very princesslike. A lot of embellishment, too, Sibila.

VARGAS: Another big star on the red carpet, Nicole Kidman.

STEPHENSON: Nicole Kidman will be the lady in red tonight. She is wearing a Balenciaga dress. This is truly one of my favorites of all time on the red carpet. Nicole has really got it right. She kept her hair down which keeps that dress super super feminine. This is the only Balenciaga on the red carpet tonight. This is silk tool and stunning on Nicole Kidman. She played down the jewels. She looks elegant, she looks sophisticated and like the style star she is.

VARGAS: She looks absolutely gorgeous. I'm going to have to toss down to my colleague Brooke Anderson who's got one of the nominees. Brooke, who do you have?

ANDERSON: A lot of excitement here on the red carpet, Sibila. I have best supporting actor nominee, Allan Arkin and his lovely wife ...

ALAN ARKIN, ACTOR: This is what I would like to be ...


ANDERSON: Suzanne. Great to see you both.

A. ARKIN: I was speaking. I had something to say. I have something to say.

ANDERSON: What were you saying? What would you like to say, Alan Arkin?

A. ARKIN: This is what I really would have liked to have worn tonight.

ANDERSON: That wasn't an option. You look nice. I want to ask you - you look lovely. Third nomination for you. Your first since, what, 1969?

A. ARKIN: 1920 ...

ANDERSON: Regardless, this is big. And "Little Miss Sunshine" won big yesterday at the Independent Spirit awards. If your mother were alive, she would have said, you still need to find something to fall back on.

A. ARKIN: That's true.

ANDERSON: What do you think about the Oscars and how meaningful is it for you to be recognized in this way?

A. ARKIN: I'll let you know whether I win or lose. We'll come back and talk to you then. I don't know. I mean, it's -- I feel a million different things.

ANDERSON: Best of luck tonight.

S. ARKIN: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Nice to meet you, Suzanne. Have a great time.

Next we have Forest Whitaker, he is a leading contender in the best actor category for his really superb performance in "The Last King of Scotland." He plays Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

Good to see you.

FOREST WHITAKER, ACTOR: Good to see you. You look beautiful.

ANDERSON: You are just glowing. Your eyes are lit up. How are you feeling tonight.

WHITAKER: It's great. Look at the energy. All the people. All the lights. We're having a great time tonight, yeah.

ANDERSON: Look at someone who is glowing. My goodness.


ANDERSON: The critics love you. You have won countless awards leading up to the Oscars. How are you feeling about that and the diversity? The number -- Five black actors nominated.

WHITAKER: I think when you look at the diversity you need to look at a universal thing. It's not just that, it's like people from Spain, Mexico, Japan, films from Germany. The whole pallet. It's not just about the African America talent. I'm really happy because I think they have done amazing jobs, in these amazing films, but the films themselves are talking on a life of universality.

ANDERSON: You did such a tremendous job in "The Last King of Scotland." Best of luck tonight. Oscar nomination for Forest Whitaker. All right. A.J., up to you.

HAMMER: Forest Whitaker definitely the one to beat tonight. You think the arrivals are exciting, well, all these stars showing up now. You just wait until the after parties. We have our invitation to celebrate with the biggest stars on the planet.

Make sure you join us for "Hollywood's After Party" tonight on CNN at midnight Eastern. Coming up, we have Mark Wahlberg coming up way back when. Wait until you see some of the footage we've dug up and you are going to find out how he and some other nominees tonight got their big breaks. Right now "Jeopardy" champ Ken Jennings has some more Oscar trivia.

JENNINGS: More Oscar trivia now. Which of tonight's nominees won his first nomination in 1963? The answer is coming up.


JENNINGS: The Oscar trivia question is, which of tonight's nominees earned his first nomination in 1963? The answer, Peter O'Toole who was nominated over 40 years ago for "Lawrence of Arabia." He could win his first competitive Oscar tonight.

VARGAS: Thanks, Ken. And welcome back to "Hollywood Gold Rush." Now an Oscar nomination certainly proves you made it in Hollywood. But all these nominees had to start somewhere, and it wasn't on top.

HAMMER: Oh no, far from it. So to find out the real story, come along with us now and take a peek inside our Oscar yearbook class of 2007.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one, look at the camera.

HAMMER (voice-over): The Oscar class of 2007. Everyone here is a member of the drama club, but they all have their extracurricular activities. Honor society, Will Smith. He passed up MIT to become the Fresh Prince.

Rapping could also put him in the choir, along with Mark Wahlberg. Fifteen years ago, he was Marky Mark, a rap star and underwear model for Calvin Klein. Alan Arkin was a singer too.

His folk group the Terriors wrote and sang an earlier version of the banana boat song in his first film "Calypso Heat Wave."

Event Ryan Gosling sang a little. In the Mickey Mouse Club.

This Oscar class has some model exchange students. Joman Hounsou (ph) hails from Benin and modeled in Paris. This Janet Jackson video marked his first on-screen appearance.

In the Spanish club tonight, Penelope Cruz. The Madrid native started her film career 15 years ago in "Belle Epoque."

Class clown, our pick has to be Eddie Murphy.

EDDIE MURPHY, ACTOR: Hi, I'm Buckwheat, amember me?

HAMMER: His big break came on "Saturday Night Live."

For homecoming king, how about Leonardo DiCaprio. He got over his start on "Growing Pains."

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: No, I just like to dress like Popeye.

HAMMER: Homecoming queen, well, Merryl Streep really was one back when she went by Mary Louise. In our book she's also most likely to succeed since she now has a record 14 acting nominations. As for sports, Forest Whitaker had a college football career before he took the field in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

Underclassmen? Little Abigail Breslin.

ABIGAIL BRESLIN, ACTRESS: There is a monster outside my room. Can I have a glass of water.

HAMMER: She was scared in "Signs" before she became "Little Miss Sunshine." In the senior class at age 76, Clint Eastwood is looking to rope in another Oscar.

Back in the day, he was just a cowpoke. Seventy-four year-old Peter O'Toole was at one tool a newspaper reporter. After eight nominations he would like to see a headline declaring him an Oscar winner. That's one thing everyone in this class has in common.


HAMMER: Of course we have to offer our congratulations to the entire class of 2007, Sibila.

VARGAS: Absolutely. Well, that's all for right now. But once the Oscars are over, it's time to celebrate, so please join us for "Hollywood's After Party", your all-access invitation to the most exclusive Oscar bashes. That's at midnight Eastern on CNN.

HAMMER: And tune in to a very special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT live at the Oscars. That will be at 11:00 p.m. Eastern on Headline News.

We are live at the 79 Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. I'm A.J. Hammer.

VARGAS: And I'm Sibila Vargas.

ANDERSON: I'm Brooke Anderson down on the red carpet. Thanks for watching, everybody. We'll see you on Headline News at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and then CNN at midnight Eastern for "Hollywood's After Party." So long until then.



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