2021 Oscars open with Regina King power walk, George Floyd shout-out and almost no masks to be seen

The 93rd Annual Academy Awards were always going to look a little different than past years due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And the producers of the telecast — Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins — announced that change right upfront with an introduction that channeled Soderbergh's own Ocean's Eleven

In the opening moments, last year's Best Supporting Actress winner, Regina King, grabbed a statue from outside of Los Angeles Union Station and strode inside in full power-walk mode, while the names of all the night's presenters — including Ocean's star Brad Pitt — popped up onscreen like the opening credits of a blockbuster motion picture. It was the producers' way of driving home the message of a PSA that played before the ceremony: "The Big Screen Is Back." 

Watch 'The Big Screen Is Back' PSA

Unlike Danny Ocean's crew, King didn't abscond with the statue in an elaborately staged heist. But she did steal the show's opening moments with a non-quite monologue that referenced current events and explained the evening ahead. "It has been quite a year, and we're still smack dab in the middle of it," the director the thrice-nominated One Night in Miami said, before discussing a subject that was upmost in people's minds. Not the pandemic, but the recent outcome of the closely-watched George Floyd trial that resulted in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin being found guilty of second and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

"I have to be honest: If things had gone differently this past week in Minneapolis, I might have traded in my heels for marching boots," King said about that verdict, urging viewers at home not to click away at the mere mention of something political. "I know many of you want to reach for your remote when you feel Hollywood is preaching to you, but as the mother of a Black son who fears for his safety, no fame or fortune changes that."

King then went on to explain the run of show — and why Union Station was being treated as a movie set. "We're doing it maskless," she said of the Oscars, distinguishing the ceremony from the virtual Golden Globes and the semi-maskless Grammys. "Think of this as a movie set, with a cast of over 200 nominees," King explained. "We are following all of the rigorous protocols that got us back to work safely." 

(Of all the attendees inside the train station, Zendaya was the only one who seemed to keep her mask on throughout — something that did not go unremarked on social media.)

Zendaya said 'I'm wearing my mask, covid ain't gon get me' #Oscarspic.twitter.com/ZrK3A6XZIw

— jujoffer (@jujoffer) April 26, 2021

we love @zendaya so much for wearing a mask during the ceremony #Oscarspic.twitter.com/7FF83qXlx1

— Spider-Man: No Way Home News (@spideysnews) April 26, 2021

Zendaya has chosen to keep her mask on when seated next to Aaron Sorkin. #oscarspic.twitter.com/QJJFpkF6nK

— Jamie B. Golden (@jamiebgolden) April 26, 2021

Those on-set protocols include being masked up when the cameras aren't rolling, but then doffing those coverings when "Action" is called. "When we're working, masks off, and when we aren't working, masks on. That’s how we do it." And that intro ishow a true King does it. 

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