On Oscar night, the only thing shining brighter than the stars who graced the stage to pick up their awards was the stage itself. Swarovski provided millions of crystals to illuminate the stage, this being the company’s 11th Oscars and sixth time collaborating with set designer Derek McLane on the ceremony, for which he previously won an Emmy in production design in 2014.
For this year’s stage, in which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was celebrating its 90th ceremony, McLane says “the proscenium was inspired by the inside of a geode and by an image I saw of a domed, mirrored room” from Swarovski’s headquarters in Wattens, Austria. Constructed from octagonal tiles with a mix of crystal, metal, and mirror, the front piece of the stage incorporates more than 45 million Swarovski crystals.
Behind the proscenium, the stage’s sparkling demeanor never faltered. Returning from last year’s ceremony are the “floating Oscars,” which feature more than 140,000 crystals. A backdrop curtain original to this year’s ceremony boasts an additional 80,000, while the Dolby Theater’s opera boxes were embellished with 23,000 stones from the company.
Aside from the shimmering ambiance of Hollywood glamour, and it being the 90th Academy Awards, the stage’s design pays tribute to the history of cinema. “It felt important,” McLane says, “that the design celebrate a breadth of eras in filmmaking, going back to the 1920s, when the Oscars began, up through the present.” Creating such different sets, many of which need to be able to be reconfigured for reuse later in the show, “and unifying them into a cohesive look was a challenge,” he points out. But having a working relationship with Swarovski for six Oscars now certainly helps. “They’ve been terrific partners, helping with a lot of complicated engineering for the various pieces we’ve done,” McLane adds.
Not straying too far from the movies, the set designer’s work can be seen next on Broadway’s adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s film Moulin Rouge!, which starts performances this summer in Boston before heading to New York.