- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

Who better than a five-time Oscar nominee and best-actress winner to help decorate the backstage green room at the Academy Awards?

Susan Sarandon is collaborating with designer David Rockwell on a photo installation for the Architectural Digest Greenroom at the Oscars on March 2. They’re planning a digital display encompassing 86 screens - smartphones, tablets and TVs - one for each year of the Academy Awards. Images honoring movie heroes and Oscar history will show individually and collectively across the tableau.

The 67-year-old actress and the veteran architect and designer are also selecting black-and-white film stills for the stars-only space, where nominees and presenters hang out before taking the stage.

“I’ve been to the green room several times, and the idea of putting something in there that really makes you feel part of a tradition, it’s really lovely,” Sarandon said by phone Wednesday from Costa Rica, where she was enjoying the last days of a vacation. “Because it’s a night that has so many ups and downs… it’s kind of nice to remember that just to be nominated you’re part of this family that’s been going on for 86 years.”

Rockwell, who designed the stage for the Oscar shows in 2009 and 2010, said Sarandon’s familiarity and history with the Oscars make her a perfect partner for the project. Sarandon said she was drawn to it out of her love of movies and the Oscars, the opportunity to delve into the film academy’s vast photo archives and admiration for Rockwell’s work.

“And his son is a Ping-Pong prodigy,” she added. Sarandon is a Ping-Pong enthusiast who has opened social clubs in New York and Los Angeles and appears in a Ping-Pong movie that screened at the Sundance Film Festival last week.

Besides helping to curate the photos, the actress gave input on other elements of the room. “I also suggested a few high stools,” she said, “because when you’re in your dress and it’s tight, you can’t sit down so low on the couch.”

“We both agree that the bar cart needs to be prominently featured,” Rockwell said.

He described the space as a contemporary “urban loft.” The digital photo display will fill one wall and the framed film stills, another. There’s also a “fantasy garden” attached: a plant-filled outdoor space that transforms the Dolby Theatre’s loading dock into an attractive smoking patio. (In years past, Jack Nicholson could be spotted in his tuxedo and shades puffing a cigar on the unadorned, cement porch mid-show.)

The green room is an enclave for stars on Oscar night - the only place free of reporters and cameras.

“It’s a long evening, especially if you’re nominated toward the end, and (this is) someplace where you can take a breath and not worry if you’re picture-perfect and smiling every second,” Sarandon said, adding that there’s natural camaraderie among presenters and nominees. “It’s a great opportunity just to say hi, to tell people how happy you are for them that they’ve been nominated and how much you loved their performance and ask questions and laugh. It’s probably the only relaxed place that is there, really.”

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