Set Designer Derek McLane Takes Playbill Inside the Worlds of The Heiress, Last Five Years, Tiffany's and More

By Michael Gioia
16 Apr 2013

A shot taken from the wings of the Kodak Theatre.

"It was an enormous thrill and honor to be asked to do it," said McLane about designing the set for this year's 85th Annual Academy Awards. "It was somewhat terrifying at first because I was well aware that the Oscars are watched by some ridiculous number of people — like a billion — but it's also a show that people enjoy critiquing. That's something of an American sport — to sit around and critique the Oscars. So to be entering that arena was nerve-wracking at first, but it was really exciting."

How did he get the job? Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, who produced this year's award ceremony as well as the recent Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which McLane designed the set for, enlisted the Tony-winning Broadway designer.

"They were quite inspiring in the beginning because they said to me that they really wanted me to do work that looked like my own work — work that I wanted to do," said McLane on working with the duo. "They didn't want me to design this to look like some other Oscar show. They wanted it to look like my own Oscar show, and that was an enormously liberating thing for [them] to say."

This year's Academy Awards honored music in film, and "how that translated visually," said McLane, "is pretty abstract in a lot of ways." The proscenium was made of approximately 1,000 Oscars, and "each one was individually lit," he added.

Watch highlights from the 2013 Academy Awards: