- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

Babs’ starry night

Hugh Jackman is a charmer and the height of cool.

But his role as host of Sunday’s Oscar broadcast (8 p.m., WJLA-ABC7) has given this versatile entertainer a trace of pre-show jitters, Barbara Walters says.

“He’s nervous about it. He’s never done it before!” says Miss Walters, who recently interviewed the Australian star for her 28th annual Oscar-night special.

“I said, ‘What would really make you nervous?’ And he said, ‘Looking in the front row and seeing Jack Nicholson.’”

Mr. Jackman is taking his Oscar duties seriously, Miss Walters tells Associated Press. “He talks about the most important time in his life — and the Academy Awards [broadcast] is second.”

So what ranks first?

“It has to do with his father,” Miss Walters says, keeping details under wraps until airtime (before the Oscars and also on WJLA-ABC7 at 7 p.m.).

She also sits down with Oscar nominees Anne Hathaway (“Rachel Getting Married”) and Mickey Rourke (“The Wrestler”).

Rounding out the hour are reigning rock idols the Jonas Brothers, who presented Miss Walters with a special interviewing challenge.

“We went down to Dallas, where they live, and did it from their home,” Miss Walters says. “And the first thing I had to learn was which one is which.

“They are such a phenomenon, and they’re very nice young men,” she says of Kevin, 21, Joe, 19, and Nick, 16.

Miss Walters, whose first Oscar special aired in 1981, says she doesn’t plan to maintain this annual tradition forever. Or will she?

“Every year, I think I’ve interviewed everybody; I’ve done it all,” she says. “And then what happens is, you have new stars.”

The envelope, please

After Miss Walters’ special, it’s on to the main event: the 81st annual Academy Awards, with Mr. Jackman as host.

The ceremony caps a full day of events leading up to the big show.

E! Entertainment Television is leaving no stone unturned. Its “Countdown to the Red Carpet” begins at 2 p.m., six hours before the Oscar ceremony and four hours ahead of its own red-carpet coverage (“Live From the Red Carpet” at 6 p.m.).

Not to be outdone, host network ABC will have Robert Osborne, the longtime columnist for the Hollywood Reporter and host of cable’s Turner Classic Movies, interviewing stars on the red carpet as they enter the 8 p.m. ceremony at Tinseltown’s Kodak Theatre.

Also on tap …

While the Oscars may be the main attraction this weekend, they are, by no means, the only game in town.

Other noteworthy viewing:

An Evening With Eartha Kitt (10:30 p.m. Friday, WETA-Channel 26) — A September 2008 interview highlights this look at the vampish singer-actress, who died Christmas Day at age 81. The self-styled sex kitten also displays her purrfect talents with renditions of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “La Vie en Rose” and “Here’s to Life.” Gwen Ifill hosts.

Late Night With Conan O’Brien (12:37 a.m. Saturday, NBC) — After nearly 16 years, it’s the end of the late-night shift for the funnyman as he hosts his last original show before taking over Jay Leno’s seat at “The Tonight Show” on June 1. Guests include the White Stripes.

America (9 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime) — No, it isn’t a patriotic tale about the nation, but the story of a biracial teen named America (Philip Johnson) who finds himself in a treatment facility after a suicide attempt. There, he meets Dr. Maureen Brennan (Rosie O’Donnell) — who gets him to open up about his painful past and offers the support and courage he needs for a successful future. Ruby Dee co-stars. Based on the 2002 novel “America” by E.R. Frank.

Sunset Boulevard (6 p.m. Sunday, Turner Classic Movies) — It’s Oscar day, and there’s no better time to take in this classic 1950 film, which took three of the prized statuettes at the 1951 ceremony. William Holden is Joe Gillis, a failed screenwriter who enters into an ill-fated pay-for-play romance with Norma Desmond (played by Gloria Swanson), an older and faded silent-film star. Erich von Stroheim and Nancy Olson co-star. Billy Wilder directs.

Written and compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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