LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bigger stars, more music and edgier comedy are on the menu for Sunday's Oscar ceremony, when the most coveted awards in the movie industry are handed out during a glittering Academy Awards show.
Producers of the three-hour Oscar telecast at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre are promising a faster-paced show and more face time with first-time host Seth MacFarlane, while honoring the best films not just of 2012 but also of decades past.
"We have more performances on that stage than we can ever remember there being in the past. And we are not trotting people out just to sing and dance. Every single thing you see on that stage will be related to movies," said Craig Zadan, who is producing the Oscar telecast for the first time with Neil Meron.
"We have devised ways that we are hoping will make the pacing faster ... That doesn't mean we are not going to give as much weight to honoring the winners, but there has been a lot of dead space in the show (in the past)," Zadan told Reuters.
Steven Spielberg's presidential movie "Lincoln" heads into Sunday's ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, followed by Ang Lee's shipwreck tale "Life of Pi" with 11, French Revolutionary musical "Les Miserables" and romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" with eight apiece, and Iran hostage drama "Argo" with seven.
All five are competing for Best Picture, the top prize, in a tight race that has narrowed in recent weeks to "Lincoln" or "Argo" and will be the last to be announced on Sunday night.
Before then, Zadan and Meron have assembled an array of performers and presenters that almost outshine the actors, actresses, directors and screenwriters who have been waiting since early January to see if they will go home with a golden Oscar.
They include A-listers Barbra Streisand, Jack Nicholson, Jane Fonda, John Travolta and Jennifer Aniston, along with younger stars Daniel Radcliffe, Kristen Stewart and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
But don't count on seeing all six surviving James Bond actors on stage for the planned special 50th anniversary tribute to the British secret agent's illustrious movie career.
"We have a tribute to James Bond which is really exciting and thrilling, but it never included the concept of six guys coming out and standing there awkwardly on the stage," Zadan said, quashing speculation that Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Sean Connery and George Lazenby would unite on Sunday.
The nominations for "Les Miserables," where Anne Hathaway is tipped to win Best Supporting Actress, has opened the door to a celebration of the last decade of musicals.
The tribute will feature Hathaway, her Oscar-nominated co-star Hugh Jackman, as well as "Dreamgirls" and "Chicago" Oscar winners Jennifer Hudson and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
MacFarlane, the creator of provocative animated TV series "Family Guy," will also be showing off his vocal skills, and spending more time on stage than has been traditional for Oscar hosts.
"What happens a lot in the past is that the host comes on, talks for a lot, and then disappears for half an hour. We are not doing that. We are having Seth be there a lot, out there introducing things, and that allows for more pacing and comedy," said Zadan.
But there will be plenty of room for the unpredictable - and that's not even counting possible upsets when the winners' envelopes are unsealed.
"We love the fact that people don't quite know what they're going to get with Seth as a host," said Meron. "We live for the moments that happen on stage. Those are some of the great Oscar moments of the past."
The Oscar winners are chosen by some 5,800 movie industry professionals who are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Academy Awards ceremony, in its 85th year, will be broadcast live on ABC television in the United States, and to more than 225 other nations.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant editing by Jackie Frank