(Repeating to additional clients)
By Maria Caspani
April 25 (Reuters) - The red carpet is back. After the coronavirus pandemic forced awards shows to be canceled or go virtual over the past year, movie stars and Hollywood A-listers returned on Sunday to strut their stuff, live and in person, on perhaps the most iconic red carpet of all: at the Oscars.
It was a smaller-than-usual affair with fewer celebrities and cameras - and strict COVID-19 protocols in place. But there was no less glamour to grace the carpet set up at Los Angeles' Mission Revival-style Union Station, where the 93rd annual Academy Awards will take place this year.
Wearing a double-breasted black tuxedo, actor Paul Raci, 73, was among the first to step in front of the microphones on the carpet.
"I don't think I could have it any other way; it means a lot. It's perfect," said Raci, who has been nominated for best supporting actor for his role in the movie "The Sound of Metal."
TV hosts and personalities described a pent-up red carpet energy with stars and spectators alike eager to put on a show to forget, albeit temporarily, the rigors of 2020.
"Minari" star Steven Yeun, one of the nominees for best actor, said it felt "strange" to be out and interacting with people.
"I haven't talked to random people in a while, so this is crazy," said Yeun, 37.
Glenn Close, nominated for the eighth time for an Oscar for her portrayal of tough-love parent Mamaw in "Hillbilly Elegy," walked the red carpet in a blue tunic and pants by Armani Prive.
"It's not two miles long, so that's lovely," Close, 74, joked, referring to this year's shortened red carpet.
"I'm very excited, I think it will be very, very different," she said of the ceremony.
"It feels like a special season, like a special time to remember," said best supporting actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr., 39, who wore one of the more eye-catching outfits of the night, a head-to-toe gold Brioni suit.
Some of the others on the red carpet aside from the actors and actresses wore masks, and interviewers kept their social distance from their subjects.
Some of the nominees and other celebrities took to social media ahead of the ceremony to share preparations for this year's awards show.
On Instagram, Close silently toasted in front of the camera while getting ready for the show.
A mask-wearing Laura Dern held what looked like a swab for a COVID-19 test in a shot the actress shared with her Instagram followers and captioned "Oscars prep!" (Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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