updated 02/26/2013 AT 8:25 AM ET
•originally published 02/26/2013 AT 8:35 AM ET
Together they wowed the Academy Awards on Sunday, performing a challenging ballroom dance in front of 40 million viewers – each counting on their background in dance to make up for a frightening lack of rehearsal time.
“They were going to cram and rehearse constantly over two days [right before the Oscars]. But then they both simultaneously got the flu,” producer Neil Meron tells PEOPLE.
“We were going, ‘Oh my God.’ Literally at the last minute they got to rehearse and miraculously got up there and they killed.”
It helped that both know a little something about dance.