Backstage with Leonardo DiCaprio, other Oscar winners
LOS ANGELES—For someone who won the Oscar best actor award for the first time after many years of supposedly being snubbed, Leonardo DiCaprio stayed as cool and collected backstage as he was onstage. Best song composer Sam Smith walked in with a glass of champagne. Best actress Brie Larson was not only very composed but eloquent, as well.
These were some of the “scenes” in the backstage interview room where the brand-new Oscar winners were whisked off to after their acceptance speeches before the live audience at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
In this room lined with rows of desk tables and chairs, journalists from around the world brought multitasking to a new level—asking questions or listening to the winners on the podium while watching the show on the monitors and listening via headsets provided by the Academy, posting updates on social media and writing Oscar coverage stories.
Yells like “Leonardo, over here, over here!” from the photographers in the next room alerted us that major winners were headed next to this room.
Back-to-back best director winner Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu walked up to the podium but suddenly, best actor victor Leonardo DiCaprio came up, too. So we interviewed the director and star of “The Revenant” jointly.
“It all feels incredibly surreal,” replied Leonardo when told about how the whole world seemed to want him to finally bag his first best actor trophy. “We always strive for the best in what we do. But this year in particular, I’ve been overwhelmed with such support by so many fans and people in the industry. It’s quite shocking, actually. What can I say except I’m very grateful.”
Leonardo, the rare actor these days who still evokes old Hollywood glamour (think Clark Gable), touted his film’s talent pool in a year when diversity—or the lack of it—in Hollywood is the hot-button issue.
“It’s incredible that two outsiders like Chivo (DP Emmanuel Lubezki) and Alejandro came from Mexico and went to our industry. They were firm in their beliefs artistically. And now, here we have a two-time winner (Alejandro) at the Academy Awards and Chivo, a three-time winner (best cinematography).
“I am so proud to be working with these guys. They represent everything about what this industry is and what it should be.”
On why he decided to bring up climate change in his acceptance remarks, the dapper actor answered: “I wanted to speak out about that tonight because while doing this brilliant film that Alejandro directed, I was doing a documentary (‘Carbon’) about climate change, which brought me to Greenland, China and India to speak with the world’s leading experts on this issue.
“There’s a sense of urgency that we all must do something proactive about this issue. And certainly with this coming (US presidential) election, the truth is this—if you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in modern science or empirical truths; you will be on the wrong side of history. We need to join together and vote for leaders who care about the future of this civilization and the world as we know it.”
Alejandro, asked about winning the best director award back-to-back with “Birdman” and “The Revenant,” said: “I couldn’t be happier. Every film is like a son. So you cannot like one son more than the other. This experience, and sharing it with Leo, all the nominees and the crew are what we are celebrating tonight. This award is on behalf of all of them. They made it possible.”
On the diversity issue, the filmmaker commented: “The debate is not only about black and white people. Diversity really includes yellow, Native Americans and Latin Americans. The issue is very polarizing, very politicized, without observing the complexity and beauty of how this country is so mixed, as my country is mixed.”
Brie Larson, who scored an Oscar for her portrayal of Ma, who was kidnapped and held captive by a man for seven years in “Room,” reflected on the big difference a year can make on our lives: “This time, a year ago, I was still trying to figure out who I was. I spent about a year prepping, and then doing the film. Who I was by the time the movie was over was so far away from who I was when I started that it was a long process of many different things in trying to find myself.”
On what she hopes “Room” will impart, Brie replied: “When we want to talk about feeling trapped … we want to talk about abuse, the many different ways that we as humans can be abused or feel confined. I hope that this is a story that honestly changes people and allows them to be free.
“To me, making this movie was my own search for freedom and breaking free of my own personal boundaries.”
As for her advice to people who haven’t achieved their dreams yet, the 26-year-old answered: “I wish that there was any sort of rule or code, but the way you get there is by breaking it—by listening to what’s happening inside of yourself.
“It took me 20 years to be standing here on this stage, but I wouldn’t want it any other way—to be so grateful for all of the hardships that it took to get here and to not be discouraged by it.”
Nicole Rocklin, who produced the best picture winner, “Spotlight,” which depicted the true story of how the Boston Globe revealed the massive child abuse and cover-up in the local Catholic archdiocese, related how making the film affected her own beliefs.
“I don’t think it changed the way we viewed religion,” she maintained. “It was more about the institution than it was an attack on religion. It was not an attack in any way on Catholicism.”
Alicia Vikander, best supporting actress winner for “The Danish Girl,” which dramatized the trailblazing life of a transgender pioneer, hopes the movie would pave the way for more LGBT stories to be told in Hollywood.
“I came on this film only two years ago, and I know that this was not an easy film to get made,” she said. “Gail (Mutrux), one of our producers, worked on this for almost 15 years. To see the cultural change with just over the years since I finished the film with Caitlyn Jenner coming out, ‘Transparent’ and ‘Tangerine’ … I wish that, in the same way that this film has been so educational for me and for so many people that I got to meet, it will open up an even wider conversation.”
Mark Rylance, on beating Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and three other best supporting actor nominees (Christian Bale, Tom Hardy and Mark Ruffalo) for his performance in Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” stressed: “Those actors are so good. I feel more like I’m a spokesman when you win than someone who’s better than the other nominees. And I know that there were so many wonderful nominees just outside the five of us—Idris Elba and Paul Dano and other actors, too, so I don’t take it too seriously.”
Mark shared the remarkable story on how he said no twice to the Steven Spielberg. Many years later, they finally worked together on “Bridge…”
“Steve offered me a small part in ‘Empire of the Sun.’ I turned that down. Then, he came back and offered me a better part and I accepted it. But then, a theater director whom I very much wanted to work with also offered me a part.
“I did decide to do the season of plays, instead. Though it didn’t go that well, I met my wife (Claire van Kampen) on the first day.”
“A drink is in order, definitely,” said Sam Smith who put aside a glass of bubbly, as he and James Napier entered the room. They were already celebrating their best song win for “Writing’s on the Wall” from the Bond film, “Spectre.”
“We are completely overwhelmed,” James quipped.
Told that he was not the first openly gay Oscar winner, as he said in his acceptance speech, Sam smiled and said: “S***. F*** that.” (It was the late American playwright and lyricist, Howard Ashman.)
Sam dished on how he prepared for this big Oscar night: “I have been eating the most boring food you can imagine for months now. I’m going to destroy some burgers and chocolate cakes in a second and some beer.”
E-mail [email protected] Follow him at twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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