If you were caught off guard on Sunday night when Eminem appeared onstage at the Oscars to perform “Lose Yourself” backed by an orchestra, then everything worked out exactly as planned. Following the performance, confused viewers took to Twitter to try and decipher why Em would be recruited to perform a song that had won the Academy award for Best Original Song a whole 17 years earlier. Well, you no longer have to scratch your head about this mystery because Robert Mills, Senior Vice President of Alternative Series, Specials and Late-Night Programming at ABC, has explained the whole backstory of the performance to Entertainment Tonight.
“I want to say the first time it was ever talked about was after Justin Timberlake opened with ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ in ,” Mills said. “There are just these songs when you have an iconic performer opening with an anthem like that it just gets everybody pumped up. We talked about it with the Academy that Eminem, the fact that he never performed that song and it’s such an anthem, and it’s one everybody knows and it won the Oscar. Wouldn’t it be great to figure out a way to get him to come and do that?”
Kevin Winter/Getty Image
Everything fell into place this year to get Eminem to finally bring his hit to the Oscar stage because the ceremony’s producers had a relationship with his label, Interscope. All that was left to figure out was how they would keep the performance a secret until it occurred, since “the element of surprise” was a priority for both Em and the showrunners. So much so, that Mills believes that Em might have backed out had the news leaked beforehand. According to Mills’ recollection, only the Academy, the network, the producers and Eminem’s team were aware of the surprise up to two days before the ceremony.
The organizers were also very particular about other details in order to optimize the performance’s impact. “It had to be the right time, it had to be in the right place in the show,” Mills explained. The “Lose Yourself” spectacle came after a montage showing iconic musical moments in movies, ending with Em’s song in 8 Mile.
Wait, there’s more. Em & Co. were so stealthy that they held just one rehearsal for the performance and had a whole plan in case any outsiders happened to walk in on it. “When we did dress rehearsals, there was a whole alternate beat where it was just Eminem’s band playing ‘You Should Be Dancing’ by The Bee Gees with John Travolta in the background, so that’s how much it was kept a secret and surprise,” detailed Mills. “There was a whole alternate ending to that beat. If anybody happened to wander in and see it they would have been like, ‘Oh yeah, there’s been a switch with a salute to Saturday Night Fever. It was a fake-out.”
Eminem has provided his own explanation for why he wished to do this performance. While “Lose Yourself” is widely accepted as classic, one of our writers wondered, is it really the defining song of Eminem’s career?