"You're the first," Pitt said.
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All night the long, narrow stage wings are flooded with the show's hundreds of crew members, security officers, presenters, singers, dancers and — most notably — winners.
Before heading on stage, co-presenters Hudson and Jason Sudeikis conferred over the pronunciation of the nominees in their two short film categories.
"Eesh, what are the Vegas odds on that one?" Sudeikis said, reading a particularly tricky name.
"We knew you could handle it," stage manager John Esposito said. "We put the best man on the job."
Before heading into the lights, Hudson grasped Sudeikis' arm. "My dress is really long, so please walk slow with me."
At 15 minutes to show time, the mother of all celebrity traffic jams converged around the backstage bathrooms, as Jared Leto tilted his head back to put drops in his eyes, John Travolta and Robert De Niro kibitzed about Travolta's Florida home, and Martin Scorsese drifted past, unnoticed.
When Steve Coogan emerged from the restroom looking bewildered, Kurt Russell shouted, "You're on!"
"You look gorgeous!" Field said to Lawrence.
"No, you look gorgeous!" Lawrence replied.
"All right, you win!" Field said.
A round of applause stopped the conversation as host Ellen DeGeneres made her way to the stage, smiling and letting out a giant exhale.
A vocal and supportive audience watched DeGeneres' opening monologue from the wings, as Jamie Foxx (with a cellphone in each hand), Kerry Washington and Anne Hathaway laughed at her jokes, especially the naughty ones.