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The Inspiration Behind the Show-Stopping Oscars Set

Encrusted in millions of Swarovski crystals, the stage inspired comments from Jane Fonda and Jimmy Kimmel

If you watched the Academy Awards last night, you no doubt noticed a massive crystalline formation wreathing the stage; while there was no shortage of bling at the Oscars, the dazzling proscenium arch, a collaboration between Swarovski and decorated Broadway set designer Derek McLane, was the shiniest bauble in the room, boasting over 45 million Swarovski crystals. The crystal-encrusted set even became a trending topic during the ceremony—inspiring one-liners from host Jimmy Kimmel and commentary from presenter Jane Fonda, who compared it to the “orgasmatron” from sci-fi classic Barbarella. And while the look may have been out-of-this-world, the production design’s inspiration, as we learned from McLane himself, was rather terrestrial.

Jimmy Kimmel hosts the 90th Academy Awards under Swarovski’s monumental crystal structure (photo: © Swarovski)

“My design began with an image I saw of a fragmented mirror,” McLane tells us. “The shape in the image felt very natural, like the inside of a geode. This was my launching pad for the entire design.”

Swarovski crystals have been a running theme at the Oscars for years; the ceremony marked the eleventh time the historic manufactory has illuminated the set, and the sixth time that McLane has visually incorporated them throughout the Kodak Theater. In addition to the proscenium, McLane bejeweled floating Oscars statuettes in over 140,000 crystals, the curtain with over 80,000 crystals, and opera boxes in 23,000 of the diamantine stones.

Rendering of the Swarovski-encrusted set at the 90th Academy Awards (photo: © Swarovski)

Swarovski has a longstanding role in Hollywood, adorning the costumes of everyone from Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz to Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast. And more recently the Swarovski family, which founded its jewelry company in Austria over 100 years ago, has become active behind the scenes as well, expanding into film production with Swarovski Entertainment Limited (the firm’s first production Romeo & Juliet was released in 2013).

But when it comes to combining the glamour of the silver screen and the power of crystals, there’s no better venue than the Oscars. Reflecting on Swarovski’s role in the show, Board of Executives member Nadja Swarovski emphasizes the value of illuminating voices in the industry. “It’s so special to commemorate today’s leading talents through our contribution of crystals,” she says. “[The] set design beautifully represents Swarovski’s brand vision to propel creative voices across the entertainment industry and beyond.”