First-time Oscar host Hugh Jackman

Designer gowns and golden statues can only mean one's Oscar® time! On Sunday, February 22, 2009, Hollywood will roll out the red carpet for the 81st Academy Awards. Every year promises surprises and touching acceptance speeches, but this year, Oprah, Gayle King, Mark Consuelos and Ali Wentworth are excited for another reason—the host!

For the first time, actor Hugh Jackman—named the Sexiest Man Alive in 2008 by People magazine—is hosting Hollywood's big night. "I love him, and I'm so excited for him," Oprah says. "The Oscars are going to be so great this year. I don't care if they go on for five hours, because Hugh is hosting."

When he was offered the gig in mid-December, Hugh says Oprah was the first person who called to congratulate him. At the time, Hugh says he was backstage at a German television show. "I was literally on the phone, about to go on, and they're speaking German to me, and I'm like, 'Oprah's on the phone. ... I'm not going on. Hold on a second.'"

With just days left to prepare, Hugh says he's more excited than nervous. While he won't reveal all that he has in store, he says he ran ideas past comedians Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg, former Oscar hosts, before settling on certain jokes.

Mark wants to know...would Hugh rather be the host or be nominated? "Both," Hugh says.
Oscar host Hugh Jackman takes you backstage at the Kodak Theatre.

During a rehearsal break, Hugh took Oprah's cameras on an exclusive backstage tour of Hollywood's famed Kodak Theatre. The first stop? Hugh's dressing room. "It was called the Billy Crystal room, but I've changed that name because I was like, 'Billy who?'" he jokes.

The luxurious Architectural Digest Green Room is where presenters will gather before taking the stage. "It's always an interesting place to be [on Oscar® night] because some presenters are terrified, and some people are up here having a few drinks," Hugh says.

Before heading back to rehearsals, Hugh shares a top-secret Oscars scoop. "I'm actually in a little bit of a dance number," he says. "The stars of High School Musical and the stars of Mamma Mia! are going to be joining me on stage. There's going to be, trust me, some other surprises."
Oscar nominee Amy Adams talks about her acclaimed role.

Vanity Fair magazine has called her the fastest rising star in Hollywood. Actress Amy Adams may be best known for playing Princess Giselle in the hit movie Enchanted, but her more serious roles have earned her two Oscar® nominations in just three years.

In 2005, she received her first nomination for her portrayal of a pregnant wife in Junebug. Now, she's up for the Best Supporting Actress award for her work in Doubt, the film adaptation of a John Patrick Shanley play.

Amy's co-stars in Doubt are no strangers to awards shows. Amy says working with the celebrated Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman was an amazing experience. "It was awesome," she says. "They are amazing human beings, amazing actors. They're just honestly some of the best people that I've gotten an opportunity to know."

During the film shoot, Amy says she learned many things from Meryl, including how to knit! "[The film] helped me realize that I am never going to be Meryl Streep. She is one of a kind, and sort of once I got over that idea that I had to keep up with them, it was very freeing," she says. "It was actually a real growth experience for me and a very validating experience."
Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson talks about working with Brad Pitt.

Actress Taraji P. Henson is also vying for the Best Supporting Actress award. Taraji received her first Oscar® nomination for her portrayal of Brad Pitt's mother in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the most nominated film of 2009.

During the course of the film, Taraji's character, Queenie, ages dramatically. To make the transformation more believable, Taraji says she studied the women in her family. "My grandmother, my one surviving grandparent, is 84 years old," she says. "She had a get-together at her house. ... I just went to the get-together and sat back and studied all of the women because there was a woman there to represent every age I had to portray. They were character studies and didn't even know it."

When Taraji first read the script for this film, she says she didn't think she had a shot. "Oftentimes, when you have a huge studio film and you have big names attached, they like to keep attaching big names. At the time, I wasn't a huge name," she says. "I was planning a huge garage sale. I really didn't take it serious. I took the audition seriously, of course, but I was just hoping to make an impression on Lorraine Mayfield, the casting director."

After learning she got the role, Taraji says she postponed the garage sale!
Ali Wentworth asks moviegoers about their Oscar predictions.

In honor of the Oscars®, Ali held a little preshow of her own at her local movie theater. "If you're like me, you have to see every single movie before you decide who you think should win or not," she says.

Most of the people Ali interviews think the Best Picture award will go to Slumdog Millionaire, an independent film that's captured the hearts of millions. "I was for Benjamin Button, but Slumdog has so much heat," Gayle says.

"I told her it was going to be Slumdog weeks ago," Oprah says. "I thought Benjamin Button was like a movie we hadn't seen. I also loved The Reader. ... [But] it's Slumdog's year."

Print your Oscar ballot and start planning a Hollywood-inspired party!