LOS ANGELES — Less than 24 hours before the super-fancy Oscar ceremony, it was jeans-and-sneakers day at the Dolby Theatre.
Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Aniston, Liam Neeson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomi Watts, Kevin Hart, Channing Tatum and Zoe Saldana were among the casually-clad stars rehearsing for the Academy Awards Saturday, while Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Marion Cotillard, Jared Leto, Dwayne Johnson and Oprah Winfrey dressed things up.
A day before the Hollywood celebration seen around the world, stars paraded through the theater to test-drive their lines on the teleprompter, try out their show-day shoes and get comfortable with the winners’ envelope.
“I’m so glad we’re doing this!” said Terrence Howard, who wore an ascot beneath his cardigan sweater, as he fumbled over his lines. He ran through them again and again, explaining, “I’ve been on vacation for a while.”
Hart, wearing a letterman’s jacket and ripped jeans, showed a hint of nerves.
“This is my first time,” he told a stage manager. “It’s pretty intense.”
Other stars brought the comfort of experience with them. Aniston, who arrived in flip-flops, cargo pants and a denim jacket, carried high heels in a paper bag and put them on backstage. Kidman went a step further and rehearsed barefoot.
Statuesque in a white, ruffle-front blouse and loose black trousers, Kidman shed her stilettos backstage because her show-day shoes aren’t quite as tall.
“So I’ll be the right height,” she said.
Leto and Chris Pratt had fun with their rehearsals, each pretending to trip on their way to the microphone.
“Yes, I know, my jacket’s fabulous,” Leto said when he arrived center stage, having come straight from the Spirit Awards in an elaborate beaded blazer and a felt hat to rival Pharrell’s.
Murphy, who wore an all-black ensemble of hoodie, pants, sneakers and shades, seemed serious as he rehearsed – until he was about to leave the stage.
“Why are y’all playing James Brown music for me?” he asked. “Play `Party All the Time’,” he said, referring to his 1985 hit single.
Jason Bateman, in a plaid shirt and jeans, had a special guest in tow: his 8-year-old daughter, Francesca.
“From here, we’re going to take it up a notch and go for frozen yogurt,” he said.
Tatum, wearing a gray sweatshirt, baggy khakis, untied boots and his ballcap askew, took time backstage to chat with the students of Team Oscar: aspiring young filmmakers who won the chance to carry Oscar statuettes onstage during the big show.
Tatum told them about dancing with Charlize Theron during his first Academy Awards appearance. He said he was so nervous that he started drinking as soon as they finished the performance, and was half-drunk when he went on the Jimmy Kimmel show later that night.
Winfrey, who arrived camera-ready in a long, cream-colored skirt and matching sweater, brought best friend Gayle King to her rehearsal. King snapped cell-phone pictures of Winfrey on the Oscar stage before she practiced her lines, and took more photos after.
Meanwhile, host Neil Patrick Harris popped out of his dressing room, saying, “Let’s go see what’s happening.”
He met up with Winfrey on stage. The two hugged as King snapped away.
“What are you most excited about?” Winfrey asked the first-time Oscar host.
“I’m most excited about the first commercial break,” Harris admitted.
Winfrey also stopped backstage to chat with the student trophy presenters.
“You guys have fun tomorrow,” she said. “There’s nothing like it.”