"Countdown to the Oscars" offers viewers a backstage pass to the Academy Awards, featuring interviews with this year's nominees, rarely seen footage of the nominated stars before they were famous, and a special celebration of the 20th anniversary of "Forrest Gump."
Robin Roberts and Josh Elliott anchor the special hour, with reporting from Lara Spencer and Chris Connelly. "Countdown to the Oscars" airs on Thursday, Feb. 27 (8 p.m.) on the ABC Television Network.
Highlights from the star-studded hour include:
•Jonah Hill: He has emerged as Hollywood's it-sidekick and star, proving he can hold the screen with acting heavyweights such as Pitt and DiCaprio. The once unlikely celebrity turned two-time Oscar nominee sits with Connelly and talks about his creative ambition, his comedic roles with director Judd Apatow, and his aspiration of wanting to be like his personal hero, Martin Scorsese.
•Lupita Nyong'o: She's Hollywood's breakout star and the fashion world's new "it" girl. Lupita Nyong'o's searing performance in "12 Years a Slave" made Hollywood sit up and take notice. She is the awards season frontrunner, garnering numerous accolades, including a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Not bad when you consider this was her first acting job right out of the Yale School of Drama.
•Before they were Famous - The Male Nominees: The long lost commercials. The embarrassing early TV roles. Meet Hollywood's hottest men long before they were up for acting's top prize. Go globetrotting with Bradley Cooper, the travel show host. Cheer on the "Wolf of Wall Street" as he fends off vicious attacks from man-eating aliens. Stroll through the halls of "My So-Called Life's" Liberty High with TV's original teen bad boy, Jared Leto. Plus, why is a young DiCaprio speaking Russian in a cave? Connelly reports.
•Before they were Famous - The Female Nominees:From their first jobs scooping ice cream and waiting tables at Hooters, to the commercials and haircuts they hoped you would forget. See Jennifer Lawrence when she was a Kentucky model, and go inside the audition room for one of her first jobs. Get to know Julia Roberts, when she was just Julie, the aspiring veterinarian; and Meryl, when she was Mary Louise, the homecoming queen. Plus, find out why Oscar winner Sandra Bullock was not earning much praise for her acting in high school. It's the little-known stories of Hollywood's leading ladies told by their old co-stars, childhood friends, and teachers.
•Forrest Gump and Real Life Military Heroes: From animated heroes, to superheroes, to action heroes ... all will be celebrated at this year's 86th annual Academy Awards. But a few days before the Oscars, veteran actor and Academy Award nominee Gary Sinise, best known for his portrayal of double-amputee Lt. Dan in "Forrest Gump," honored our nation's real-life heroes. Fifty injured servicemen and women arriving from Walter Reed Military Medical Center, Fort Belvoir and Naval Medical Center San Diego were the honored guests for a once-in-a-lifetime experience at Disneyland and Paramount Pictures with surprises along the way, including an unexpected visit from Forrest Gump himself, Tom Hanks. In an occasion to mark the 20th anniversary of the Oscar-winning film that made his character an icon to wounded warriors everywhere, Sinise gave ABC's Elliott exclusive access to the multi-day event, which took place in the entertainment capital of the world.