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Showbiz Road to Gold

Aired February 26, 2012 - 18:30:00:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now on a special live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "SHOWBIZ: Road to Gold." SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has the Oscars covered like no one else. "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star, Lisa Vanderpump, right here with the big fashion hits and misses. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Nischelle Turner, live on the red carpet with the biggest stars. And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Kareen Wynter on the biggest Oscar showdowns, including the Oscar Fight Club. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT reveals the big Oscars face-offs, Brad versus George.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: What is up with the friendly competition between you and your best bud, Brad Pitt from "Money Ball"?

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: There`s nothing friendly about it.

BRAD PITT, ACTOR: We`re going to wrestle it out at the end.


HAMMER: Viola versus Meryl, Octavia versus Melissa, who will take home the gold?

And the Oscar goes to the dogs. It`s the Oscar showdown that`s got Hollywood tongues wagging. Uggie from "The Artist," versus Cosmo from "Beginners." Who will be named best in show at the biggest show in Hollywood?

This special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: "Road to Gold," starts right now.

(on camera): Hello from Hollywood. I`m A.J. Hammer. Welcome to this special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: "SHOWBIZ: Road to Gold." We`re live where the Hollywood and Highland Center where the 84th Annual Academy Awards will begin in a couple of hours. It is a spectacular day in southern California and there will be incredible Oscar showdowns tonight. We`ve got George Clooney, up for best actor against pal, Brad Pitt. You have Oscar legend, Meryl Streep, up for best actress against the incredibly talented Viola Davis tonight. And that is just the beginning. The battles are set and we will be one on one with all of Hollywood`s biggest stars right there on the red carpet.

That`s where SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`S Nischelle Turner is now, live on the red carpet as all of the stars arrive. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`S Kareen Wynter is also with us tonight. Kareen is revealing the must-see showdowns.

And we`re joined by our special fashion commentator, Lisa Vanderpump, one of the stars of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills."

Terrific to see you. You look amazing by the way.


HAMMER: You have, of course, your trusty canine companion, Jiggy, who goes with you everywhere.

VANDERPUMP: Absolutely.


HAMMER: Dressed to the nines tonight.


HAMMER: Going to take a little nap.


Lisa, we see on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," you attend the glamorous parties and star-studded events. But does it get more glamorous than the Oscars? I would dare say this is more glamorous than a royal wedding.

VANDERPUMP: Absolutely. You have to remember, when you go to a wedding, you have to be careful not to upstage the bride. Here, it`s every man for himself. I think it is a fashion spectator of the year.

HAMMER: Every man, including George Clooney. Of course, we already saw him arrive --

VANDERPUMP: Oh, don`t mention George!

HAMMER: -- on the red carpet with Stacy Keebler. I`m mentioning George because he looks pretty handsome tonight. I`m going to go out on a limb and say that.

VANDERPUMP: He looked great in his tux but, in my opinion, he`d look better without it.


HAMMER: Jiggy, I`m going to get your take on all of the fashion in just a few moments.

But the red carpet is filling up not just with George but all of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

I want to go out there to see what`s happening. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Nischelle Turner on the red carpet. The stars must speak with her before they go inside -- Nischelle.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Filling up, A.J., this red carpet is packed already here for the 84th Academy Awards.

With me is best support actor nominee, Max Von Sydow, for "Incredibly Loud and Incredibly Close."

This is a phenomenal night, the pageantry of Hollywood at its best, yes?

MAX VAN SYDOW, ACTOR: Yes, absolutely.

TURNER: Are you excited, nervous, calm, any feelings?

VAN SYDOW: Oh, I`m very excited, and very calm.

TURNER: All of the above.


Are you ready to get this thing going?

VAN SYDOW: I hope so. I think so. I`ll try anyway.

TURNER: Thank you very much. Congratulations and good luck to you.

A.J., you know, I have in my sight, you all were just talking about Mr. Clooney and Ms. Keebler. I have them in my sight. I tell you, as good as it looks to you guys from there, it`s better up close. So hopefully, we can snatch him in a couple of minutes.

Damon Bashir is here as well. I saw him in my sight. so we have a lot of people to talk to and a little bit of time to do it.

Right now, I`m going to send it back to you.

HAMMER: All right, Nischelle. All of the stars coming to you before they`re allowed to enter the theater.

Of course, we`re gearing up for all of the huge Oscar showdowns expected tonight. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Kareen Wynter has been tracking these epic battles.

WYNTER: Oh, amazing.

HAMMER: Really bigger and fiercer it feels to me, in all of the years I`ve been doing this, than many years past.

WYNTER: What makes it so great, best buds facing off like never before, like Viola Davis against Meryl Streep. I just caught Viola on the carpet looking amazing in emerald green.

HAMMER: Not surprising.

WYNTER: It could be her night. Meryl, she`s won this twice before, a record number of nominations. We`ll see who wins out. One of your personal favorites, Melissa McCarthy, in the supporting actress race against her best bud, Octavia Spencer. So again, anyone`s guess.

Have you seen what Melissa`s sporting on the carpet?

HAMMER: I did.

WYNTER: Amazing, amazing.

HAMMER: I think she looked terrific. And we just got a look at George Clooney with girlfriend, Stacy Keebler, tonight. One of the big showdowns -- and everyone is making a big deal about this battle between he and Brad Pitt. That`s because they`re good friends. They`ve made a lot of movies together. In my mind, and I think the common wisdom is the battle in the best actor category is not necessarily between these two but perhaps between Jean DuJardin, who I believe is favored to win, and George Clooney.

WYNTER: He`s fantastic. Jean has won in so many major categories this year not just for best actor but also for his movie "The Artist." 10 nominations behind "Hugo," which was nominated for 11. So we`ll have to see.

But I caught George on the red carpet. George is always a favorite of mine. Stepping out with girlfriend, Stacy Keebler. He is shinning tonight. He may have an edge over Brad until Brad steps out. We`ll have to see.

HAMMER: Things are heating up on the read carpet. That`s why we`re going back out to Nischelle Turner.

TURNER: Absolutely, A.J., all of the big nominees have already arrived here. We`re talking about George Clooney. I see Viola Davis in my sight, looking gorgeous in green.

I spoke with best supporting actress Melissa McCarthy. She excited about being here tonight. Take a look at what she told me.


TURNER: Is it excitement, euphoria? What is the feeling?

MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: Yes, it`s crazy, it`s crazy on every level, like all the people here, my mom and dad and my sister are here with me tonight and they`re just like looking around and to see them in the midst of al of this and then it`s almost helped keep me calmer because I`m worried about them and on the drive over, I`m like, "Oh, my god, I think we`re going to the Oscars," and to get here, you`re like, wait, I`m always sitting in my living room watching this. What`s happening?

TURNER: Is this how you dreamed it would be?

MCCARTHY: It`s fun, so weirdly happy and positive. It`s just great.

TURNER: Why did you get emotional? What happened?

MCCARTHY: I`ve never been to the Oscars. I`ve been in this business a long time. I`ve been on a long journey since September with this movie starting in, "Telluride" (ph). And it`s been exhausting. But then to end up here at the Oscars is just -- it was just -- I really was caught up emotionally. It -- I`m o proud of this movie and proud I`m a part of it. And, you know, to be here at this point in my career means a lot to me.


TURNER: So right now, what we`re hearing is that "The Artist" could be in the front-runner for best picture tonight. But George Clooney`s movie, "The Descendants," is nipping at the heels. They`re telling me they`re going to bring him over to me. We definitely want to talk to him and Stacy Keebler. They both look beautiful.

One of the things Melissa McCarthy told me, A.J., and showed me, she`s got these custom-made shoes with an inscription to her, special message on the bottom of it.

Now we do have George Clooney and Stacy.

Good lord, I`m about to pass -- you guys, I swear, you look phenomenal.

CLOONEY: That`s what I tried to tell people, they just don`t listen to me.


TURNER: Oh, you thought I was talking to you. No, I was --


CLOONEY: That I know.

TURNER: How are you feeling tonight? I know you guys are the epitome of cool on the red carpet, but any nerves at all, George.

CLOONEY: No, no, no, no. Not really any nerves. I`m happy to be here. I get to see a lot of people I like. And it`s a fun night. But not really nervous. I feel like it`s a very French night in general.


So I feel it`s sort of relaxed.

TURNER: So you think that`s how it`s going to turn out?

CLOONEY: I do. It makes it easier for us to sit back and enjoy it.

TURNER: What is a typical day at the Clooney house like getting ready for the Academy Awards? What do you do? Sit around, read the paper, eat a burger? What do you do?

STACY KEEBLER, GEORGE CLOONEY`S GIRLFRIEND: He does nothing until 10 minutes before.


TURNER: Oh, really?

KEEBLER: He even played basketball and take a nap.

CLOONEY: I play basket ball usually.

KEEBLER: 10 minutes before he gets ready and up.

TURNER: That`s what you did? You actually played ball and took a nap?


TURNER: What did you do? You were getting ready all day?

KEEBLER: Woke up and got ready.

CLOONEY: It takes a while because there`s an army outside in the driveway.

TURNER: You had the whole glam squad there, and George is like can I just -- cane somebody give me a comb or brush.

KEEBLER: He doesn`t even need that.


TURNER: Whatever you did, it`s great. She looks phenomenal. You got to give me a head to toe.

KEEBLER: Well, I have Judith Leiber, Mark Heza and Lorraine Schwartz.

TURNER: Phenomenal.

I haven`t seen your buddy, Brad Pitt. You`re going up against him tonight. Last time we talked to you, you said he`s walking around with lifts in his shoes. What do you expect him to have on tonight?


CLOONEY: It looks like I`m going to need more lifts.


Or stand like that. Stacy just hit her head on the blimp.

TURNER: She does look tall and regal. One of the things, quick, they`re pulling you away from me. this has to be a big special night for you. You`re a double nominee, acting and writing, and I know those are both of the things that you really, really take seriously.

CLOONEY: The thing is you never take it for granted because you never know if you`re allowed back. So for me, it`s really fun and I really enjoy this night.

TURNER: George, I think you`re coming back. They`ll let you back in. All right, thank you guys, wonderful. Have a good evening.

George Clooney and Stacy Keebler. She looks, wow! Breathtaking, A.J., knocking me out down here. Lisa is probably up there salivating at how Stacy looks this evening.

HAMMER: The ever humble George Clooney. By the way, Nischelle, just because you spoke with George already, doesn`t mean you can go home yet. You have more work to do. You have more stars to talk to.

TURNER: I`m done. I`m done. OK.


HAMMER: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s special live red carpet coverage, "SHOWBIZ: Road to Gold" continues in a moment with all the excitement.


VIOLA DAVIS, ACTRESS: The opening thought, oh, my god, everyone wants Oprah to play Abeline. They already have an idea who Abeline is. How can I just live up to those expectations to find and create a character, a human being that can move people? I`m always aware of that, because I always want to move people. I always feel like when you go to the theater, you have to have a human experience.

DAVIS: (INAUDIBLE). We`re just telling stories like they really happened.




HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer, live at the 84th Academy Awards. Stay right here. There`s a lot more excitement on the red carpet. And this is a special live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "SHOWBIZ: "Road to Gold."


HAMMER: Welcome back to this special live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "SHOWBIZ: Road to Gold." The countdown is on for Hollywood`s biggest night. It`s the 84th Academy Awards.

And with me tonight, the lovely and talented "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star, Lisa Vanderpump, are fashion and celebrity commentator tonight, along with Jiggy, of course.

It`s a red hot red carpet tonight. Holy mackerel.

VANDERPUMP: So far, so good.

HAMMER: What is the best thing you`ve seen, the best outfit on the best looking person?

VANDERPUMP: Stacy Keebler. Loved it. It was so reminiscent of that kind of `40s glamour. That off-the-shoulder. Loved the gold lame. I thought she looked like the statue. She looked absolutely beautiful.

HAMMER: But she complimented George. She didn`t take it away from George Clooney because she --


VANDERPUMP: Nothing can take away from George.

HAMMER: OK, yes, I didn`t think so.


VANDERPUMP: You know I`m biased.

HAMMER: All right, well, you keep looking at all the fashion. I want to get more from you in just a moment.

I want to go back to the red carpet where Nischelle Turner is standing by -- Nischelle?

TURNER: Hey, A.J. We`re waiting still for some of the names in Hollywood. We`re waiting for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Right next to me is Viola Davis. She debuted her short natural hairdo at the "Essence in Black Women in Hollywood" luncheon. And she`s wearing the hair on the red carpet tonight. She looks like a dream.

We talked to George Clooney and Stacy Keebler and George told us he played basketball and hung out and took a nap before he came here today. Very cool. Is he always the epitome of cool here on the red carpet? For now, we`re going to send it back to you. And hopefully, we`ll be able to grab Viola in a couple of minutes. Back to you.

HAMMER: All right, thanks, Nischelle.

So much energy on the red carpet as the stars are arriving.

Lisa, the man you`re waiting for is here, we saw George Clooney speak a moment ago. High marks for George. How can you mess up a tux? He`s been said to have the best tux in Hollywood.

VANDERPUMP: Absolutely. The bow tie is back. That was a big deal. A lot of people are wearing ties for the long tie and the bow tie is back.


VANDERPUMP: I`m sorry, A.J. I had to put it out there.


HAMMER: What about the stars you`re looking forward to seeing tonight, among the women who can you --

VANDERPUMP: I want to see Viola Davis. I`ve loved her look all year. I`m looking forward to seeing her.

HAMMER: We got a glimpse at her short hair, which we`re happy to see once again. and you`re a huge fan of Angelina Jolie. Face it, she doesn`t show up everywhere.

VANDERPUMP: No. She doesn`t come out often. But when she does wow, she knocks it out of the park, so excited to see her. And after seeing her at the Golden Globes, she`ll bring it on tonight.

HAMMER: When you are getting ready for a night like tonight -- and you go to glamorous events yourself, as we see on "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," how do you know? Does a little bell go off in your head when you`ve laid out the outfits and say, that`s the one?

VANDERPUMP: I`m not that organized. I run in last minute and say, give me the best you`ve got. I`m wearing Mark Zenino, and I`ve thrilled about it. He`s my go-to person. Thankfully, we found something perfect for me.

HAMMER: And it looks spectacular. But do you feel immense pressure? Some women I know do. Others have such great confidence. They know --


VANDERPUMP: Not so much. But I`ve never been nominated for an Oscar.


Tonight, that is pressure. Absolutely.

HAMMER: All right, well, you keep watching the stars, pay attention to what they`re wearing.

We`ll be back with Lisa and Jiggy in a moment as the countdown to the Oscars winds down. You`re watching SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`S live coverage from the red carpet. It`s "SHOWBIZ: Road to Gold."


JONAH HILL, ACTOR: I always wanted to be doing comedies and dramas and mixing it up. And what an opportunity to show what I can do as a dramatic actor than in this form with these great people that are amazing, you know. So, yes, it`s very surreal.

PITT: I actually do three.

HILL: Yes.

PITT: Evaluate three players.

HILL: Yes.

PITT: How many did you do?

HILL: 47.


HILL: Actually, 51. I don`t know why I lied. Just --



HAMMER: Welcome back to the live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It is "SHOWBIZ: "Road to Gold." The countdown is on for the 84th Academy Awards. I`m A.J. Hammer.

But I`m going to send it back out to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`S Nischelle Turner, who is on the red carpet with a woman I expect to be walking home with Oscar gold tonight.

You can tell her I said so, Nischelle.

DAVIS: I feel like I`m in the same spot, you know. So, yes.

TURNER: We just came back live here. We`re live on CNN worldwide now. So one of the things that you have just debuted, this phenomenal look tonight, Viola. You have to give me head to toe. And I`ve said -- I told her a minute ago -- I love that you`re wearing the natural.

DAVIS: Thank you. My husband encouraged me. And I think it was time to step into who I was and to be bold about it. I don`t think that when you tell people or show people what you are that you need to do it with a whimper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s not making a statement. She`s who she is. It`s who she is.

TURNER: Was it hard though? You always look so glamorous. We know you wear wigs. But IS it hard to just take it off?

DAVIS: It was, but I have to tell you, it was not as hard as I thought it would be. So therefore, I think it was time. That`s why. It was just time.

TURNER: Who is the dress by? Because you are wearing it.

DAVIS: Vera Wang. Vera Wang. We were first.

TURNER: And it`s adorable. They are going to take you away. Can give me what this means to be here at this moment for you this evening.

DAVIS: It`s a huge sense of accomplishment. I feel like my mother`s story, my grandmother`s story has come to a forefront. I feel like by promoting this movie, I`ve grown. It`s a huge turning point in my life. It could not be sweeter.

TURNER: Congratulations. Good luck to you. Have something ready in case you hear your name tonight?

DAVIS: I`m having a hard time with that one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s it going to come from her heart.

TURNER: Congratulations. Thank you very much, guys.

Viola Davis, nominated for best actress in "The Help." A.J., a lot of people are saying she could take this Oscar home tonight.

Back to you.

HAMMER: Nischelle, I hope she has given some thought to what she`s going to say. I have a good feeling she`s going to be walking up there to accept that award tonight.

Let me go to Lisa Vanderpump, from the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," our special fashion commentator tonight.

You saw here. I`m no expert, but I`m going to tell you, Viola Davis` name will be on the best dressed lists tomorrow.

VANDERPUMP: I`m rooting for her, A.J. I loved her look tonight. I thought it was a brave statement to go all natural at the Oscars. But I loved it. I thought the dress, Vera Wang, the green, with the jewelry. We`re seeing a lot of the trend with the earrings. I think it`s beautiful. I really do think she brought it home.

HAMMER: You mentioned trends. One is the bare necks. I noticed that tonight. Not a lot of necklaces. Not a lot of heavy weight around the neck tonight.

VANDERPUMP: I think the country is going to have to recover from this recession really to kind of go back into the gold and bring the big jewelry out. We`re still seeing earrings and cuffs, but not the heavy necklaces.

HAMMER: You and I have a unique vantage point. We can look down over the crowd. We see the sea of people wondering in. We see all the colors. I`m trying to get a sense, if there are any trends with colors. Seeing a lot of black.

VANDERPUMP: Not so much red. Last year, there was a lot of red. I`m seeing a lot of blue and nude tones.

HAMMER: So as you have watched these stars coming by and speaking with Nischelle Turner, top pick so far?

VANDERPUMP: Stacy Keebler. I loved the neckline. But I loved the silhouette on Viola. I thought the green was good for Viola.

HAMMER: I thought Viola looked spectacular. You`re looking forward to Angelina Jolie.


HAMMER: And the other stars. We`re going to bring Jiggy back in here in just a moment because Jiggy is dressed spectacularly as well.

VANDERPUMP: Absolutely.

HAMMER: Ms. Vanderpump, We will continue in just a moment.

Of course, Oscar night is all about the incredible arrivals that we`re witnessing. AS we`ve seen, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is live on the red carpet, right there in the middle of it all, talking with all the stars.

Plus, we`re taking you inside the battle for best picture gold. Talking about "The Artist," "The Help," "The Descendants." Tremendous films, each and every one. This is a fight like never before for the biggest Oscar. Who will come out on top?

You`re watching a special live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "SHOWBIZ: Road to Gold."


HAMMER: This is a special live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "SHOWBIZ: Road to Gold." We`ve got the Oscars covered like no other entertainment news show. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is live on the red carpet with the biggest stars and our SHOWBIZ Oscar All Stars with everything covered.

It`s all about the golden guy inside, of course. But the Oscar red carpet is where the real battle is on for Oscar`s best dressed. Tonight, the red carpet face-offs. The epic battle for the best picture Oscar -- George Clooney versus Brad Pitt. Will it be a huge night for "Hugo," with the most Academy Award nominations? Or will silence be golden for "The Artist"?

This is a special live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "SHOWBIZ: Road to Gold." And it continues right now.

Hello from Hollywood. Beautiful day for all of the stars to come out. I`m SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s A.J. Hammer. Welcome back to the special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Showbiz Road to Gold." We`re live at the Hollywood in Highland Center. It`s the site of the 84th academy awards gets underway in just 90 minutes from right now.

Our incredible "Road to Gold" team is bringing you the best coverage of the Oscars. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Nischelle Turner is live from the Red Carpet. She`s speaking with all of the big stars. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Kareen Wynter is all over the big Oscar battles tonight. And with me right now, a special guest fashion commentator, Lisa Vanderpump, who stars of course in the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills".

Wow. What fashion we have seen coming down this Red Carpet.


HAMMER: And you`ve had your eye on a couple of the best actress nominees as they`ve just arrived.

VANDERPUMP: Yes, Michelle Williams she`s the only babe with that kind of high neckline, but she`s wearing a red strapless. But it looks it`s very pretty on her. With a little necklace, the first necklace we`ve seen tonight.

And then, we`ve just seen Rooney Mara who normally faces the black, very gothic look. I found the hair a little severe on Rooney Mara. But it was interesting to see her in a white choice. She wearing a Givenchy (ph) she looks like -- she`s very beautiful.

HAMMER: So people will be talking about both of those ladies and certainly will tomorrow.

VANDERPUMP: Yes I think so.

HAMMER: Right now, out to the Red Carpet as it fills up with all of Hollywood`s biggest stars before they can go inside. They need to stop by and speak with SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`S Nischelle Turner -- Nischelle?


Hi, guys. We are live now. Actually I was just telling the crew, the producer of "Undefeated", Mr. Sean Combs that we are going to be live talking to them. This night is unlike other in Hollywood. Yes.

SEAN COMBS, PRODUCER: Yes this is like the biggest night in Hollywood. This is a night where we all come out to celebrate each other and the great works that have been done over the years. We`re nominated for best documentary for "Undefeated". And this is (INAUDIBLE) the coach, this is Daniel and T.J., the directors.

And this movie is such a touching movie. It`s not just about football. It`s about life. And we`re just keeping our fingers crossed and we`re -- but we`re just blessed to be here. And the movie "Undefeated" it opened in theaters last week. So if you haven`t seen it, go see it.

TURNER: Well and if this wins, the best documentary T.J. you will be the first African-American director to win.

T.J. MARTIN, DIRECTOR: So I`ve been told, that`s right this will be the first African-American director.

TURNER: I thought so. Yes and you know one of the things when I was seeing some clips from this, because we just did a piece about this was your impassioned and passion for these kids and for this team. It really was wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I appreciate it. But it`s -- it`s -- I represent a bunch of people. I represent 200 people in Memphis who surrounded these kids to help them.

COMBS: To try to help them up in Memphis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes and I hear it through this, they`ll love you.

TURNER: Ok well, (INAUDIBLE) on that the north of Memphis. All right, shout out to north Memphis from Sean Combs and the crew. A.J. we`ll send it back to you.

HAMMER: All right. Nischelle of course, the award we wait for at the very end of the night is the award for Best Picture. And this year I have to say the Best Picture battle is really like no other year. There are certainly some favorites, but the Oscar could truly go to any of the great movies that are nominated.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Kareen Wynter is with me live right now. Kareen this year we have nine films certainly some favorites, but some heavy, heavy contenders all around.

WYNTERS: Absolutely nine heavyweights. But I have to say one huge, huge standout. A.J. so far this year, it`s been all about the silent picture "The Artist". An incredible, incredible silent movie, it`s won Best Picture. No action -- actually no silent movie has won an Oscar since 1929. That`s 83 years ago when (INAUDIBLE) won the very first best picture Oscar. Let`s take a look at the competition it faces.

Up against "The Artist" is George Clooney`s "The Descendants"; "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", that`s starring Tom Hanks; "The Help"; Martin Scorsese`s "Hugo"; Woody Allen`s "Midnight in Paris"; "Moneyball" starring Brad Pitt; as well as "The Tree of Life" also starring Brad Pitt. Some huge, huge contenders there. We`ll have to see who brings it home.

HAMMER: All right well, from the Best Picture nominees, let`s go to a Best Actress nominee who is with Nischelle Turner right now on the Red Carpet -- Nischelle.

TURNER: Absolutely, A.J. I have Glenn Close here who is nominated for Best Actress for her role in "Albert Nobbs". Now Glenn I know throughout this process you have really been trumpeting this film. This was a labor of love for you.

GLENN CLOSE, ACTRESS: Yes it was, I played it on stage a long time ago. And I thought it was a fascinating character and a very different kind of story. So I bought the rights and here we are.

TURNER: Yes you put up your own money for this and literally sang for your supper.

CLOSE: I did. I did and I got an incredible team together. So I`m so thrilled that we got three nominations. And we`re all on the carpet. There`s Janet right down there and Matthew Mungle (ph) and Martial Corneville (ph) who did my hair and made wigs for me for 20 years and the fact that he`s recognized means a huge amount to me.

TURNER: Yes, I just spoke with Janet just a moment ago and you know she told me a story before. And we kind of talked about this at one point before to. How this thing came together with you guys. And you tell the story that you went back with script -- script in your hand kind of like --


CLOSE: No, no.

TURNER: -- wanting to -- wanting her to do this film. She says she saw you coming and was like oh my gosh, it`s Glenn Close. So what`s the real story? Who wanted whom --


CLOSE: I wanted her and I didn`t have a script because I thought that was too presumptuous. I just met her, I`d never met her before and said I had this project that I -- and I would love her to look at a certain part. And could I send her the script and she was magnificent. She was doing "Mary Stuart" on Broadway.

TURNER: You know one of the things, and we`ll get you out of here, I think it`s really great that there are so many really good meaty roles this year for women and so many strong roles in your category.

CLOSE: Yes very true. It`s very exciting.

TURNER: Absolutely. Thank you very much. Congratulations. Good luck to you tonight.

And you told me you`re wearing Zach Posen. You look gorgeous.

CLOSE: Thank you.

TURNER: Absolutely.

A.J., we`ll send it back to you. Glenn Close in green Zach Posen looking phenomenal.

HAMMER: Looking so glamorous.

And obviously, Nischelle we know just how much time and effort the stars have to put into what they`ll wear on the Red Carpet. They`ve got to figure out what they`re going to wear. They have to choose from so many different possibilities. And I`ve got to tell you, tonight it looks to me like Hollywood is taking glamour to a whole new level. But who am I to say?

Lisa Vanderpump, co-star on the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" she knows fashion and glamour.

VANDERPUMP: Well thank you A.J.

HAMMER: And she`s our special fashion commentator tonight. Along with the ever handsome Jiggy resting up with the big show. So what are seeing tonight that you`re loving?

We`re seeing Glenn Close right there in green.

VANDERPUMP: Yes she looked so pretty, though. Her hair and makeup look so beautiful. Octavia Spencer, I thought she looked incredible. That white gown, beaded, she looked incredible at the Golden Globes as well so whoever is dressing her is doing a great job. White beaded looked fantastic on her.

HAMMER: Has anybody surprised you tonight?

VANDERPUMP: Yes. Rooney Mora in white. Michelle absolutely in red strapless.

HAMMER: Michelle Williams?

VANDERPUMP: Yes I think there`s been a couple of people outside their comfort zones. So yes.

HAMMER: So the ramp up to a night like tonight. It doesn`t just involve picking out the outfit. Are all of these stars working out every day with their trainers or perhaps visiting some of their favorite doctors? Some of them anyway I don`t know.

VANDERPUMP: But that`s leaving it a little bit late isn`t it. You know what I think there`s a lot of preparation that goes into tonight absolutely.

HAMMER: And by doctors I meant facialists (ph).

VANDERPUMP: Yes, I mean, of course will look beautiful. But you look at all of them, I mean, they all look tiptop. Everybody looks fantastic, they actually pulled out all the stops tonight.

HAMMER: Well, imagine what this night is like for a first-time nominee and perhaps somebody who never thought they`d walk this Red Carpet. I`m thinking that`s the case for Jonah Hill who is nominated tonight for best supporting actor for "Moneyball". He`s with Nischelle Turner right now -- Nischelle.

JONAH HILL, ACTOR: Completely exciting and crazy.

TURNER: Well Jonah they just told me that we`re just come out to us live. I`m here with Jonah Hill who is best supporting actor nominee for -- for "Moneyball". And you know, I know you have been trying to play low key, but you`re just really like overwhelmed by this whole experience.

HILL: Wait. Am I trying to play it low key?

TURNER: Or you know, wait, come on.

HILL: Oh, I`m super excited. Yes what do you this is amazing.

TURNER: Yes all right, well enjoy the night, Jonah.


TURNER: Ok thank you very much. Well A.J. that was quick. They were like grabbing me that he had to leave from us. So we`ll send it back to you.

HAMMER: And I am pulling for him. I don`t know if it`s his night to win, but I think he feels like he`s already won the prize the way this award season has gone for Jonah Hill showing up everywhere including the Academy Awards.

These are the people who aren`t walking on the Red Carpet tonight. Nischelle these are the stars who are floating the first time Oscar nominees like Jonah, like Octavia Spencer, like Melissa McCarthy who we just saw a moment ago.

Next, the inside scoop about what it`s really like for them on this golden night. Imagine being in their shoes. This is a special live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. "Showbiz Road to Gold".


ALEXANDER PAYNE, DIRECTOR, "THE DESCENDANTS: I feel the huge gift that he gave me by acting so low on the film and being such a good partner in that way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a triple nominee.

PAYNE: You mean, me? Yes, he`s only double.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only double? You have to catch up.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: Two films though. Yes.

PAYNE: You got me.

CLOONEY: Don`t ever do that to me again. Get ready. We`re going to go see your grandparents. And Scottie, Auntie H is going to come watch you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dad he`s coming with us, ok.

CLOONEY: Yes, listen. Sid, what`s going on this week is really a family matter. You understand? Sid is not interested in meeting your grandparents. He`s going to be bored stiff.



HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer live at the 84th Academy Awards. Stay right here. There`s so much more excitement on the Red Carpet. This is a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s "Showbiz Road to Gold."


HAMMER: Welcome back to the special live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s "Showbiz Road to Gold." And the countdown is on for the 84th Academy Awards. Hollywood`s biggest night, so much big fashion walking down the Red Carpet.

Our special fashion commentator Lisa Vanderpump from the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hill". I`m thrilled to have you here.

VANDERPUMP: Thank you.

HAMMER: You look smashing, darling.

VANDERPUMP: Thank you darling, you too.

HAMMER: I`m seeing so many air kisses on the Red Carpet tonight.

VANDERPUMP: Absolutely.

HAMMER: So talk to me about one of the stars who you think stepped it up tonight from their previous appearances during this award season.

VANDERPUMP: Well, I think what Melissa Leo wore at the Golden Globes was kinds controversial. It looked a bit kind of tablecloth-like really, that lacy number. And tonight, I think she`s taken it up a notch. I think the gold sequins with the black it really does look beautiful. I`m really thankful to see her.

HAMMER: Any risk takers tonight? I know you talked about Rooney Mara at least changing up her look. But anybody who you think maybe stepping to the line, getting a little edgy with us?

VANDERPUMP: Not yet. Not so much. I think Stacey`s dress was pretty out there. I thought it was beautiful though. And I thought you know, Viola Davis, the hair statement was a brave statement really to come out and kind of say, ok, this is me. I`m not wearing my wigs. That`s been pretty exciting.

HAMMER: Did you say wigs?

VANDERPUMP: That`s what she said. It wasn`t me.

HAMMER: Guess who Nischelle Turner is with right now on the Red Carpet. Kristen Wiig.

TURNER: Yes, you guys are talking about wigs. I have the ultimate Wiig here with me tonight. Yes, indeed. Kristen Wiig and (INAUDIBLE). You guys, I`m so happy for you. I love that the funny ladies are at the Oscars representing. I mean this has to just be utopia tonight.

KRISTEN WIIG, ACTRESS: That`s a good way to put it. It`s like no words. We can`t believe that we`re here.

TURNER: But you`re writers. No words?

WIIG: Yes. Exactly.


WIIG: If I had like a page, I could type it out and hand it to you but talking is harder.

TURNER: Now, are you guys presenting with the rest of the ladies or are you just kind of hanging out?

WIIG: I`m presenting with the rest of the ladies.

TURNER: So they have all said we`re really nervous. Are you nervous about that at all? More nervous about getting up there and presenting or waiting to see if you hear your name called?

WIIG: I don`t know. Probably both equally terrifying for me right now. I`m trying to just like not pass out.

TURNER: All good vibrations to Melissa, correct.

WIIG: Yes. We`re so excited. Well deserved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Fingers crossed.

WIIG: Absolutely.

TURNER: Thank you ladies. Good luck. Congratulations to you. Love the movie. All right. A.J., we`ll send it back to you. More wig talk or something. I`m not sure.

HAMMER: I`m so pleased that "Bridesmaids" got so much love from the Oscars and all the awards shows this year. So great to see.

Well, coming up next, the party continues. We`re firing up the showbiz fashion cam. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s special fashion commentator Lisa Vanderpump, she`ll be back with me with the hits and misses that she`s seeing on the Red Carpet.

This is a special life edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Showbiz Road to Gold."


MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: I think to be kind of asked into this party or brought to this table and then to have all of the women in that category be women that I find so amazing and bionic and then to have one of them be such a good friend and you know, the other one I`ve gotten to know. I get really excited to see other women doing such incredible work. I love the diversity. I love that the roles couldn`t be more different. The women couldn`t be more different.

I don`t want to infringe on your privacy. I really appreciate what you do for this country and I respect the hell out of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s great. I`m an air marshal. I`m going to take a nap.

MCCARTHY: Awesome.


MCCARTHY: I`ll take the first watch.


HAMMER: Welcome back to the special live edition of "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT," "Showbiz Road to Gold."

There is "The Dictator", ladies and gentlemen. Sacha Baron Cohen showing up in character as a sex-crazed Middle Eastern despot. When the week began, the academy was saying no way Sacha, don`t show up in that outfit. Yet there he is.

I`m A.J. Hammer live from the 84th Academy Awards just outside the Hollywood Highlands Center.

And there he is. I`m along with SHOWBIZ TONIGHT Kareen Wynter. So Kareen this has been a real turn of events. And I would say no matter who wins in any of the categories tonight, perhaps the big publicity winner of the night, Sacha Baron Cohen.

WYNTER: I am just speechless A.J. No one thought that he would show up here in costume as a dictator. He did it. Sacha Baron Cohen. You know he`s going to be the big buzz after all this is said and done tomorrow. I think he`s going to get the best dressed award. No one is going to be talking Meryl, no one`s going to be talking about Angelina. They are going to be talking about that guy right there because his publicity stunt worked. Everyone is going to be seeing "The Dictator".


HAMMER: Nischelle Turner is out there on the Red Carpet. She watched The Dictator walk by. Now, were people applauding Nischelle? What was the vibe when Sacha shows up as this really despicable character that he`s playing?

TURNER: It was very odd A.J. But yes, people were. There was a big kind of commotion over here to my left when he came through. But what happened, I don`t know if you guys could see, but he was speaking with Ryan Seacrest from E. And all of a sudden, he had this urn that had Kim Jong- Il`s face on it that was full of quote-unquote, supposedly "ashes". And it flipped out everywhere.

It`s all over Ryan Seacrest. It`s all over the Red Carpet here. And it`s actually very odd. Ryan didn`t look too happy. He has a towel over trying to wipe himself off right now. Then they just herded him away. I kept trying to get him to come over and talk to me, but they just herded him away quickly.

Back to you.

HAMMER: And the funny thing is, Nischelle, as I mentioned, originally the Academy said Sacha stay away if you`re going to dress up in character. We don`t want to use the Red Carpet as a big publicity machine, but I think when they saw the traction that the story was getting and the fact that we were all talking about it, they said, you know what, Sacha we welcome you with open arms. They knew people would be tuning in to see just that.

Lisa Vanderpump, from the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills", my special guest fashion commentator tonight. I can`t believe I`m going to ask you this. But I am Lisa. how does he look as the dictator?

VANDERPUMP: Good lord. Well, you need a bit of fun on the carpet I suppose, the light reprieve. Look at him.

HAMMER: It`s my job to know what`s happening in Hollywood. What films are going to be made, but for you, prior to this week, prior to this controversy, were you even aware that Sacha Baron Cohen had made a movie called ""The Dictator""?

VANDERPUMP: I have to be honest, no.

HAMMER: So that`s the point. So the big winner of the night, Sacha Baron Cohen. But there are some big fashion winners tonight. You and I were just talking a moment ago about the lovely Michelle Williams. I got a look at her when she was very close to our position right here. Stunning.

VANDERPUMP: She look, up close, she looked absolutely beautiful. The little diamond detail on the waist was gorgeous. And the first thing that we`ve seen to night. I think she`s really kind of stepped out of her comfort zone. I thought she looked very pretty.

HAMMER: Were you pretty impressed? I actually pointed out that little diamond detail, the little bow tied that she had on her waist.

VANDERPUMP: Yes, you did. You were on it. A.J.

HAMMER: I`m paying attention.

VANDERPUMP: You`re looking pretty dapper yourself. Absolutely. Who`re you wearing?

HAMMER: Thank you very much. This would be a Ted Baker tuxedo tonight with the pin lapels.

VANDERPUMP: Pretty hot.

HAMMER: Although Lisa told me I really should be wearing a bow tie.

VANDERPUMP: The bowtie is back. It`s made a big comeback.

HAMMER: I guess the bowtie is back. Jiggy is going to return in just a moment with his bowtie on. And we`ll talk about the special award that Jiggy won. Who else is standing out to you on the Red Carpet tonight?

VANDERPUMP: I really liked Octavia Spencer. I thought she looked gorgeous. But yes, it was just -- I think it`s a beautiful dress for a full-figured woman. I thought that was an interesting choice, the white beaded because it`s quite a statement to wear that when you`re not a size 2. I thought she did it really well.

HAMMER: There`s so much pressure on everybody, all of the women in particular who come out for this event. Inevitable there will be misses. We can speak about it diplomatically, but there are certainly some women who maybe did not knock it out of the park.

I hate to even say that at all, because I know what it takes going into a night like this and how difficult. But who might wind up on some of those lists of the not so favorable outfits tomorrow?

VANDERPUMP: Well, you know what, when I saw Kristen Wiig, she`s such a beautiful girl but I`m never kind of a big fan of that kind of flesh on flesh. You know that kind of underwear color. I thought the dress was very pretty, but I think it`s a very fine line. When you put it on Halle Barry with that kind of golden skin, I think it really stands out. And I hear Halle Barry is actually not coming. Is that true? Because she is absolutely the kind of fashion diva of the carpets. I`m very disappointed she`s not coming.

HAMMER: Yes. Disappointing for some reason Halle Berry not making it here to the Red Carpet tonight. She would have been looking stunning no matter what she was wearing.


HAMMER: Nischelle Turner is on the Red Carpet. And we`re going back out to her live right now. She`s been looking stunning and talking with all of the stunning stars as they walk into the theater tonight -- Nischelle.

TURNER: Well, thank you, A.J. You know you were talking about Michelle Williams. She was actually wearing Louie Vuitton, she told me. And she did look gorgeous. Her skin up close completely flawless. You know she`s in a very good mood tonight. She`s relaxed. She`s hanging out with her best friend (INAUDIBLE). She said get ready because this is going to be a long night. She`s going to after the show go out and party. Take a look at what she told me.


TURNER: You have been so humble about playing Marilyn Monroe. But you really, really were Marilyn Monroe. You get that right?

MICHELLE WILLIAMS, ACTRESS: I don`t know. I don`t know. I don`t know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s nominated for an academy award, come on. You know.

WILLIAMS: I don`t know what I know.

TURNER: What`s the plan tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to have fun.

WILLIAMS: Yes. We`re in it for the long haul tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I tell them. Last year we fell asleep on the way to Madonna`s party. My husband tried to wake us up and we are out. So this year we`re making it to Madonna`s party.


TURNER: And as coy as they were about how they are feeling tonight, and how Michelle Williams was about her performance. I spoke to Jean Dujardin and he is elated. He is so excited to be here and very happy with the success of "The Artist". Take a listen.


TURNER: Have you kind of wrapped your brain around all of this yet? Or is it still an adventure?

JEAN DUJARDIN: I don`t want to understand something. It`s just crazy. It`s a dream for this movie. For Michel Hazanavicius, the director, the crew. For me, for the French actor, it`s unbelievable. It`s unique.

TURNER: Jean, one of the things that people are saying is that you in the last few weeks have become the front runner in the Best Actor category. And "The Artist" has become the front runner in the Best Picture category. If this happens, what does that mean?

DUJARDIN: More -- it`s a luxury. It`s more freedom for the future. And a love from America for a French actor. It`s an honor.


TURNER: He is a very handsome man. They call him the French George Clooney. I can see where that comes from.

Now I also spoke with best actress nominee Rooney Mara for "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". She`s a very soft spoken, low key kind of woman but she did tell me she`s very excited and honored for this nomination.


TURNER: Best actress nominee.

ROONEY MARA, ACTRESS: it`s a big commitment.

TURNER: It`s a bit of a madness. Have you taken it all in?

MARA: I haven`t. Everything sort of happened so fast. You don`t really have the chance to. I feel very honored to be here. I`m really excited and great.


TURNER: And Rooney Mara was wearing Givenchy tonight A.J. And she was very understated with the hair. The red lip was beautiful. And the white dress, a little bit of a departure from what we have seen here on the Red Carpet. Back to you.

HAMMER: Yes, Nischelle, she scored points with our own Lisa Vanderpump tonight because she`s wearing white as opposed to black which usually shows up at award shows in.

We can`t talk about tonight`s Oscars without mentioning the host, of course, Mr. Billy Crystal. He`s back. It`s Billy`s ninth time hosting the Academy Awards. First time since 1984.

Now Kareen, I have to say as good as Billy is at this gig, he`s a proven entity in this job. I think he`s got a lot of pressure because the Academy Award had kind of a black cloud hanging on it after last year`s, shall we say, hosting misfire.

WYNTER: This is where Billy Crystal really shines. He`s had a little practice. Like you said his ninth time hosting. This is his town. This is his audience. If anyone can knock it out of the ballpark, Billy can. I think he`s going to have a lot up his sleeve tonight. And he`s going to really keep the audience, the energy up with all the laughs rolling all night long. You can bet on a great show.

HAMMER: Well, I think that`s just the point. You mentioned the laughs. It`s very important for the producers of the Oscars this year to have comedy involved with the show. That`s a big push for them this year, which is why Billy is perfect for the job.

Do you have any sense of what he`s got up his sleeve? He always does those huge production numbers. Show`s up in all of the nominated films. What`s he going to do?

WYNTER: Well, we can thank the show producers for giving us a sneak peek. We know he`s going to do a musical medley. They say it`s going to be shocking and surprising. I can`t wait for that A.J.

HAMMER: I think he`s going to knock it out of the park. Jennifer Lopez is arriving here at the Oscars. They are getting underway in just a few minutes. We are just 30 minutes away from the 84th Academy Awards.

There`s still a lot more to come on this special live edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Showbiz Road to Gold". Our coverage continues next.

Remember SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s special coverage of the Oscars continues on Monday morning. Of course, we`re going to bring you all of the Oscar surprises. All of the showdowns. That`s live at 10:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow on HLN.

This is a special edition SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Showbiz Road to Gold."


A.J. HAMMER, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" HOST: Hello. I`m A.J. Hammer at the Hollywood Center where the big Oscar show will begin one hour from now. This is "Showbiz Tonight`s" continuing coverage of the road to gold.


HAMMER (voice-over): Tonight, the biggest Oscar showdowns including Brad Pitt versus George Clooney.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: There`s nothing friendly about it. I won`t say that right now.

BRAD PITT, ACTOR: We`re going to wrestle it out at the end.

HAMMER: Plus Viola Davis versus Meryl Streep. Octavia Spencer versus Melissa McCarthy. Who will take home the gold? And the Oscar goes to - the dogs? It`s the Oscar showdown that got Hollywood tongues wagging. Uggie from "The Artist" versus Cosmo (ph) from "Beginners." Who will be named best in show at the biggest show in Hollywood. This special edition of "Showbiz Tonight, Road to Gold" continues right now.


HAMMER: Hello. I`m A.J. Hammer. The excitement is explosive at this point. Because in less than 60 minutes, 84th Annual Academy Awards will begin. And tonight, we`re speaking with all of the biggest nominees. And with me tonight, "Showbiz Tonight`s" Kareen Wynter along with our special fashion commentator, Lisa Vanderpump, of course, stars in "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." Lisa is here as always with her lovely dog, Jiggy.

By the way, Jiggy, just won the first annual Golden Collar award. I`m so excited for you little man. Well done. Congratulations. And Lisa, I know among other things, you have your eye on George Clooney.


HAMMER: (INAUDIBLE) George Clooney tonight but what are you most looking forward to about -?

VANDERPUMP: I`m really excited for Viola Davis. I mean we got everything crossed hoping that she wins. When he wakes up, absolutely, we`re cheering her on.

HAMMER: Viola has Jiggy on her side. The scales are tipping in her favor right now.

VANDERPUMP: Absolutely.

HAMMER: How about you Kareen, obviously, we`ve been watching this very closely in the weeks running up to the show. What is the most anticipated thing for you?

WYNTER: You know, I can`t wait to see Billy Crystal take the stage. The last time he hosted the Oscars was back in 2004. This is his town and this is his audience. We know he`s going to keep the jokes rolling all night long.

HAMMER: I can`t wait for the big start of the show. He`s been keeping that very tightly under wraps. And I can`t recall the last time there was an Oscar show where there was so many highly-anticipated showdowns in one night.

WYNTER: That`s right, A.J.. You have friends and legends facing off in what is expected to be the biggest Oscar showdowns Hollywood has really seen in years. You have George Clooney and Brad Pitt, they`re up against each other, keeping the battle hot, hot, hot. Meryl Streep and Viola Davis, they`re taking their friendly faceoff to a whole new level. We also have Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy. They`re turning their head to head faceoff into a battle of first-timers tonight.

And tonight, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" is revealing the real story behind Oscars Fight Club.


WYNTER (voice-over): George Clooney and Brad Pitt are going toe to toe. Viola Davis and Meryl Streep are duking it out. And Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer are neck and neck. "Showbiz Tonight" can tell you these Academy Award nominees and long-time pals make up the hottest Oscar showdowns this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope you were the groom.

WYNTER: Clooney and Pitt share one of the most talked about bromances. First teaming up in "Oceans 11."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to shake things up.

WYNTER: Pitt shook up the lead actor nomination for "Moneyball." Clooney earned a nod for the same category for "The Descendants." And it sounds like the rivalry is heating up.

(on camera): What`s up with the friendly competition going on between you and your best bud, Brad Pitt up for "Moneyball"?

CLOONEY: There`s nothing friendly about it. I`ll tell you that right now.

PITT: We`re going to wrestle it out at the end. We`re just going to fight it out. And last man standing takes it all.

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTOR: My money is on Brad. I mean in a fistfight.

WYNTER (voice-over): And they are not the only big stars squaring off on the road to gold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can whoop Meryl Streep`s behind in a good, old- fashioned, street fight. As far as the Oscars, I don`t know about that.

WYNTER: (INAUDIBLE) Viola Davis may not know, she`s currently the favorite in the lead actress category despite being nominated against two-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep.

DAVIS: I`m just honored to be in her company.

WYNTER: Viola`s co-star in "The Help," Octavia Spencer tells us she`s honored to battle it out for the supporting actress Oscar. The big showdown puts her against her pal, "Bridesmaid" standout Melissa McCarty.

OCTAVIA SPENCER, ACTOR: Now if it were people I didn`t know, there would be the competitive thing, but I know what she`s been through. And she knows what I`ve been through, we`re thrilled to be there side by side.

WYNTER: Side by side or head to head, these showdowns will be decided on the Oscar stage. But no matter who ends up with the gold, the contenders seem to be enjoying it.

CLOONEY: He`s really nice. It`s fun.


HAMMER: Thank you, Kareen, for teaming that up so nicely for us. So much to anticipate tonight. There are also a lot of underdogs who are getting a lot of an awful buzz tonight. In our "Showbiz Tonight" exclusive poll, here`s what we asked which Oscar underdog are you rooting for? Your choices Jonah Hill, Melissa McCarthy or Michelle Williams? All great performances. And look at these results, 44 percent say they are rooting for Jonah. 35 percent rooting for Melissa McCarthy. Unbelievable in "Bridesmaids," 21 percent, of course for Michelle Williams. What do you think? To me, it seems at least among the underdogs, Jonah Hill is the front runner.

WYNTER: You`re right on the money there. I have to say it`s Jonah hands down. This is a guy who went from "Super Bad" to Academy Award nominee. Many people are just blown away that he`s even here, not Brad Pitt. When I spoke with him last month, A.J., he said he`s a scene stealer. Absolutely incredible in this film. Let`s hope he steals it tonight.

HAMMER: It`s been great speaking with Jonah throughout awards season. He`s so humbled by this whole thing. He`s still pinching himself.

And I know something else that so many people are looking for is how will the Academy Awards pay tribute to the late Whitney Houston. Hard to believe, it was just two weeks ago that she died. And I can`t believe we`re even saying that, but obviously the Oscars will give a nod to Whitney tonight.

WYNTER: And they will, you know, in a special way. In fact, "Showbiz Tonight" went one on one with the producers of the Academy Awards, including (INAUDIBLE). Watch what he told us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, she will be acknowledged during the evening along with some of the other young men and women both in front of the camera and behind the camera who were lost this year. But she was definitely part of the motion picture community. There`s no question about that.


HAMMER: So what other details can you reveal about how the Academy will pay tribute to Whitney tonight because obviously they have a lot of people they need to pay respects to?

WYNTER: They do. And it will be in the memoriam section, A.J.. There will be other stars within the film industry who we have lost, who will be honored. We were told that this tribute will come towards the end of the show, A.J., around 11:00 p.m. Eastern, right before the announcement for best actor.

HAMMER: I know it`s a moment that everybody is going to be waiting for. Besides all the tributes tonight, we, of course, are looking forward to the big race. George Clooney already having an amazing award season including winning a Golden Globe Award for best actor in a drama for "The Descendants." Of course, tonight he is nominated for co-writing "The Ides of March." What a great movie. It took me so long, I finally got to see it on my way out here to Los Angeles, Kareen.

What did George tell you when you spoke with him about all the awards and nominations he has received this season?

WYNTER: Well, George is terrific. You know, he always has so much to say. And what I love most about him, whenever I speak with him, it`s like he`s opening up about everything. I sat down with George as well as "The Descendants" director Alexander Payne and we spoke about George`s double nominations. Take a look at what he told me.


WYNTER: How gratifying is this to be recognized for your performance in "The Descendants" and your writing in "The Ides of March"? Pretty big deal.

CLOONEY: Oh, it`s fun. You know, it`s fun for me, for writing because Grant and I were nominated for "Good Night, Good Luck" and to be nominated again for writing, you know, you can get nominated once, twice is a nice, a really nice spot - you`ve done this so you know, this puts you in a very rare (INAUDIBLE) for writing and that`s fun because it`s a big passion of mine (INAUDIBLE) important. And then honestly to be given a part like this to work with the best director in the game, it`s really - I feel that I`m very lucky.

WYNTER: So you are good friends with Brad Pitt who is up in the same category.

CLOONEY: Yes, he is. He wrote as well.

WYNTER: What is the one thing, George, that would surprise us that really would get under Brad`s skin?

CLOONEY: Well, I don`t think people know this, but they should that Brad is like 5`2".

WYNTER: I`ve seen him. That`s not true.

CLOONEY: He`s wearing big -

WYNTER: High heels, wedges.

CLOONEY: He`s much smaller in real life. You would know. You understand.


WYNTER: George, the actor, the comedian. You got to love how George got in a little fun jab there at his friend, Brad Pitt, who by the way, he`s up against for best actor for "Moneyball."

HAMMER: Let`s set the record straight on there right now. I know that these two have been having an awful lot of fun with this friendly competition during this award season. It will be fun to see what happens tonight. We`re going to know very soon. If George Clooney will take home an Oscar or two tonight. We`re now less than one hour away from the 84th Academy Awards.

We want to remind you. "Showbiz Tonight" special coverage of the Oscars continues on Monday. We`re going to bring you all of the Oscar surprises, on the showdowns. That will happen live Monday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on HLN. Well, Clooney may be a favorite to bring home an Oscar tonight, but tonight the Oscar also goes to the dogs. I`m wondering if Uggie, my good friend from "The Artist" will outshine his canine competitors at the Oscars tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I have sausages in my pocket, it`s better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wouldn`t come out of his trailer unless you brought him lots of sausages. And then even then, he wanted Crystal champagne.


HAMMER: So who will be best in show at the Oscars? And is Billy Crystal having the toughest job in Hollywood? Imagine the pressure, the outrageous expectations. The whole world will be watching tonight. "Showbiz Tonight" reveals the secret pressures of hosting the Academy Awards. This is a special edition of "Showbiz Tonight," "Showbiz Road to Gold."

Best supporting actress nominee Octavia Spencer reveals to "Showbiz Tonight" the real world insight she gained from her Oscar nominated role in "The Help."


SPENCER: I think I became more successful when I realized what success meant. You know, playing a character who also is from humble beginnings, but does so much with so little made me realize that I have much work to do.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. I`m going to do it. But I need to make sure she understand this isn`t no game.

Slide out your chair under the table and face me. I need to see you square on at all times.



HAMMER: It`s closing in. We`re now just about 50 minutes away from the start of the 84th Academy Awards. Welcome back to the special edition of "Showbiz Tonight," "Showbiz Road to Gold." I`m A.J. Hammer. I`m right outside the Hollywood and Highlands Center where the big Oscar show is going to get underway shortly.

I`m joined by our special fashion commentator this year, the lovely and talented Lisa Vanderpump who of course stars in "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." Also with us tonight, "Showbiz Tonight`s" Kareen Wynter covering all of the big Oscar showdowns tonight.

You both look amazing. And of course, I need to point out. Jiggy is along for the ride. Jiggy, you`re so chill tonight. You`re relaxing before the big show. Of course, Jiggy goes wherever with you, as we well know. But the question on everybody`s mind tonight, Lisa, what is Jiggy wearing? Who is the designer.

VANDERPUMP: Actually, Jiggy is wearing himself. It`s pretty much all home made. Quite a fit but it is.


VANDERPUMP: Yes, absolutely.

HAMMER: Jiggy`s very talented if he was able to whip that little number together.

VANDERPUMP: There`s many things he does.

HAMMER: And Jiggy, of course, a star in his own right, which is a great coincidence having him here as a Golden Collar winner. Of course, this year more than ever, the Oscars are going to the dogs, Kareen. What`s happening?

WYNTER: They sure are in a crazy, crazy way. We have seen this mania that`s being fuelled by Uggie, the dog from "The Artist," which is up, by the way, for 10 Oscars tonight, A.J., including best picture and he`ll be going paw to paw with some other star pups in less than an hour when the Oscars begin in a showdown of a Great Dane proportion. So the big question, who will be Hollywood`s best in show at Hollywood`s biggest show of the year?


WYNTER: Like many stars in Oscar-nominated films, this one arrives via limo. Travels with an entourage and attracts a crowd. Hollywood`s top dog these days, Uggie, the 10-year old Jack Russell terrier is the scene stealer of 10-time Oscar nominated film "The Artist." The cast of "The Artist" revealed there`s a crucial secret to working with Uggie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I have sausages in my pocket, it`s better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wouldn`t come out of the trailer unless you brought him lots of sausages and then even then he wanted Crystal champagne. It had to be chilled to a certain temperature.

WYNTER: As the success of "The Artist" transformed Uggie into a demanding super celebrity? His co-stars think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 28 trailers. And he wanted a trailer with a fire hydrant, which is really hard to find.

WYNTER: Even his owner acknowledges all the attention may be causing Uggie to misbehave at home.

Has fame really changed him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what? This morning he was eating cat food and he knows that he`s not supposed to do it. And I said Uggie, and he looked at me like "Hey, I could eat whatever I want."

WYNTER: How long did it take you to get ready?

There`s no mistaking Uggie`s charm quality but he`s not the only dog getting praised for a performance in an Oscar nominated film this season.

Oscar nominee Christopher Plumber is passionate about his co-star, Cosmo, in "Beginners."

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, OSCAR NOMINEE "BEGINNERS": I love him. He`s a very human dog as opposed to Uggie, who is a trick dog.

WYNTER: And the Oscar nominated director of "Hugo" says the dog in his film has been unfairly upstaged by Uggie.

MARTIN SCORCESE, DIRECTOR: It`s that I feel because of maybe the character that Blacky was -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was aggressive.

SCORCESE: Yes, he was aggressive.

WYNTER: Dogs don`t qualify for actual Oscars, but at the Golden Collar Awards, which honors Hollywood`s trick dogs, reality TV dogs, sitcom dogs, and film dogs, there were six category winners but no question who won the overall dog fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the Golden Collar goes to ...

WYNTER: Uggie, of course.


HAMMER: That`s my buddy, Uggie, right there. Congratulations, Uggie, on winning your Golden Collar award. Lisa, you`re here with another Golden Collar winner, Jiggy. But could you have ever imagined that dogs would actually steal the spotlight at the Academy Awards?

VANDERPUMP: Well, they are kind of people in their own right, A.J., really aren`t they?

HAMMER: I guess I`m a huge dog guy as you well know. So I`m not surprised just not even for a moment. So, of course, the Oscars are getting underway in less than an hour at this point. Billy Crystal, a highly-anticipated act tonight. And of course, Eddie Murphy was original supposed to host the show. That didn`t work out. But at the end of the day, does a host really make or break the show?

WYNTER: Absolutely. It`s not enough that you have well-dressed A-listers in the audience. You need someone who is going to keep the energy up. Keep the laughs flowing. Billy Crystal has a little bit of experience. He`s been doing this for so many years. His ninth time. I think he`s going to do an incredible job.

HAMMER: I think there`s very little doubt. I think he`ll win a whole new audience tonight. A younger generation that doesn`t know who he is.

WYNTER: I agree.

HAMMER: It`s not that bad thing, Billy. Well, you know, the deal. All right. Lisa, Kareen, stay right where you are. We are now less than an hour away from the 84th Academy Awards. We want to remind you. "Showbiz Tonight`s" special coverage of the Oscars does continues on Monday. You should watch this live on Monday at 10 a.m. Eastern on HLN. We`ll have all the Oscar surprises and all of the big showdowns.

So as the clock is ticking away, I have to imagine at this point, Billy Crystal is doing his last-minute ritual, whatever that may be, before taking the stage to host the Oscars tonight. But is hosting the Oscars also the hardest job in Hollywood?

Imagine, Billy has done it eight times, but you know, the expectations are very high tonight. Maybe bigger than ever. "Showbiz Tonight" dares to ask. Is Billy going to live up to all the hype? This is a special edition of "Showbiz Tonight," "Showbiz Road to Gold." Best actor nominee Brad Pitt tells "Showbiz Tonight" bout his showdown with his good buddy, George Clooney.


PITT: We`re going to wrestle it out at the end. We`re just going to fight it out and the last man standing takes it all.

JOLIE: My money is on Brad. I mean in a fist fight. I`m not even talking about the -

PITT: Thank you. On the basketball court, maybe not.

No, this has been such fun, to do this and do this with him. You know, no one does it better. And it`s just - it just makes it so much more pleasant.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he needs $225,000 for Ricardo Rinko, please. Yes, I added the please at the end. OK. Let me - hold on one second, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell him I`ll pay for him.



HAMMER: This is "Showbiz Tonight`s" special coverage of the "Road to Gold." I`m A.J. Hammer, just outside the Hollywood and Highland Center, where the Oscars will begin within the hour, with host Billy Crystal tonight. Let`s face it, that host gig, it isn`t easy. So the question is, can Billy pull off yet another spectacular performance in Hollywood`s toughest job? Here`s "Showbiz Tonight`s" Michelle Turner.


BILLY CRYSTAL, OSCAR HOST: This year Oscar and I are reunited.

MICHELLE TURNER, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": It`s been called the toughest job in showbiz.

CRYSTAL: But it`s Hollywood, so how long can it last?

TURNER: Hosting the Academy Awards. Producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer might be teaming with veteran eighth time host Billy Crystal but agree it`s a tough gig for anyone.

DON MISCHER, PRODUCER ACADEMY AWARDS: It`s the wrong place to make a mistake, if you know what I mean. But with Billy, we`ve got one of the three greatest Oscar hosts of all time, the other being Bob Hope and Johnny Carson.

TURNER: Bob Hope faced off with sensitive studio execs, temperamental A- listers and a global audience of millions 19 times.

MISCHER: It`s seen in over 200 nations, it`s translated into over 73 languages. And, you know, it`s weighty, it`s got gravitas.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTOR: I loved it. I had a great time. And if they`d said, come do it again, I would.

TURNER: After becoming the first woman or African-American to host alone, Whoopi Goldberg did do it again, but her third time followed 9/11 and the somber mood led to the longest show on record.

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST: I`m like vibrating inside.

TURNER: From national crisis to overwhelming expectations, Ellen Degeneres was hired after wildly popular gigs at the Grammies and Emmys, but critics called the show predictable and the Academy hasn`t asked her back.

DEGENERES: Saying goodnight, that was my best moment.

TURNER: Jon Stewart`s first hosting moment in 2006 flopped. But unlike Ellen, John got a second chance.

JON STEWART, HOST: Look, I`ve bombed in front of better and bigger crowds than this.

TURNER: But in 2008, Jon faced a new challenge and had to tough it out with the writer`s strike. In the end, he only had four days to rehearse, but critics loved it.

STEWART: Just tired of getting my ass kicked in Oscar pools. I figured if I`m here, nobody can say anything.

TURNER: In all, more than 70 hosts have graced Oscar`s stage, but no one is more wildly considered a better host than -

CRYSTAL: The Oscars, not just an award show - well, OK , it is but it`s the best one.

TURNER: Billy Crystal has faced obstacles but look up any top 10 list, and you`ll see his name a lot. Like in 1998, when "Titanic" won big and the Oscars won even bigger, hitting a record 55 million viewers. Of course, the question now is, what about 2012?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s pretty spectacular and it`s funny.

TURNER: While producers aren`t spilling all the show`s secrets, you can count on one thing for sure.

CRYSTAL: I`m Billy Crystal and I approve these Oscars.


HAMMER: I think there`s little doubt that Billy`s going to knock it out of the park. Thank you for watching this special edition of "Showbiz Tonight," Showbiz "Road to Gold." And big thanks tonight to my "Road to Gold" team, including "Showbiz Tonight`s" Kareen Wynter, special fashion commentator Lisa Vanderpump from "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," and the coolest doggy in the world, Jiggy, thank you for being here too.

The 84th annual Academy Awards just start in just over 30 minutes. And make sure you join us on Monday morning, that`s when we`ll have all of the Oscar surprises and headlines. You`ve got to catch our special live coverage after the Oscars. We fire it up at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on HLN. I`m A.J. Hammer, have a spectacular night.