LOS ANGELES—Backstage at the 90th Oscars, the assembled select media from around the world got most excited not when a film star entered the room. Ironically, what got many journalists suddenly raising their number cards (we all got assigned numbers) so the moderator would call them to ask questions was when Kobe Bryant strode into the room.
The freshly minted Oscar winner (who knew that we’d describe the former Lakers superstar that way?) drew cheers. Many reporters stood up and applauded the basketball legend who won the best animated short film Oscar with his director, Glen Keane, for “Dear Basketball.” He cowrote with Brian Hunt and voiced as himself.
The man who is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time said, “I feel better than winning the [NBA] championship, to be honest with you. Growing up as a kid, I dreamed of winning championships and working hard to make that dream come true. But, to have something like this seemingly come out of left field …”
“A lot of people asked me, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ I’d say, ‘I want to be a writer. I want to be a storyteller.’ I got a lot of, ‘That’s cute. You’ll be depressed when your career is over, and you’ll come back to playing.’ I got that a lot. So, to be here right now and have like a sense of validation is, dude—this is crazy, man.”
Frances McDormand was asked to elaborate on the “inclusion rider” she mentioned toward the end of her best actress speech for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”: “I just found out about this last week. [It] has always been available to all—everybody who [negotiates] on a film—an inclusion rider, which means you can ask for and/or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting, but also the crew. I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business.
“We’re not going back. So the whole idea of women trending, no. No trending. African-Americans trending, no. No trending. It changes [permanently] now. The inclusion rider will have something to do with that. Power in rules.”
Best actor winner Gary Oldman, who turns 6-0 on March 21, on “Call Me by Your Name’s” Timothée Chalamet, 22, who was probably his closest competition for the Oscar: “He’s a lovely kid. And he’s a charmer. Hugely talented. I said to him tonight, in the words of Arnie (Arnold Schwarzenegger, ‘Terminator’ star), ‘You will be back.’ This is probably it for me. He’s got years yet.”
On what Winston Churchill, whom Gary plays in “Darkest Hour,” would have said to Trump if he were alive today: “My God, he would give him a good talking to, wouldn’t he?”
Guillermo del Toro, clutching his two Oscars for best director and picture (“The Shape of Water”), talked about his immediate plans: “I’m going to see my mom and dad this week. I’m going back home (to Mexico) with these two babies.”
Making history as the first African-American to win best original screenplay for “Get Out,” Jordan Peele said: “When the nominations came out, I had this amazing feeling of looking at the 12-year-old (in me) who had this burning in my guts for this type of validation. I instantly realized that an award like this is much bigger than me. This is about paying it forward to the young people who might not believe that they could achieve the highest honor in whatever craft they want to push toward.
“You’re not a failure if you don’t get this, but I almost didn’t do it, because I didn’t believe that there was a place for me. Whoopi Goldberg and her acceptance speech for best supporting actress for ‘Ghost’ was a huge inspiration for me. When I got nominated, one of the first things I did was call and thank her for telling young people who doubted themselves. So, I hope this does the same and inspires more people to use their voices.”
You’ll be comforted to know that Allison Janney planned to be back to reality—you know, work—the following day, Monday, like the rest of us, despite her best supporting actress win for “I, Tonya”: “I have to be at a table read for ‘Mom’ (her CBS series) at 10 a.m. tomorrow. I’m so happy that I have a job to go to after something like this. Because it could go to your head, then tomorrow, to wake up and have nothing to do and have this whole journey be over. The whole journey we’ve been through [has been] extraordinary. I’m going to have a big crash down after this.”
We asked James Ivory how it felt to be the oldest Oscar winner in the Academy’s history with his best adapted screenplay victory for “Call Me by Your Name.” The 89-year-old, wearing a custom-made white dress shirt with an illustration of his film’s star, Timothée Chalamet, answered, “Being 90 for anything that you do is extraordinary. But, having won the Oscar at that age seems like a hiccup in nature.
“But it feels great—it’s my Oscar—for the first time. I’ve been nominated before, but never won. I once received an Oscar for Ruth Jhabvala and walked around with it, but it wasn’t mine. So, it’s a very good feeling. I worked on many of our film scripts. I’ve cowritten scripts before, films of ours that were produced, but I’d never written one right from the first lines, up to the end, and seeing it produced.”
Director Sebastián Lelio on how important it was to cast a transgender actress (the fantastic Daniela Vega) in the role of Marina Vidal, a transgender woman, in his best foreign language film winner (Chile’s first), “A Fantastic Woman”:
“The presence of Daniela brought something, a quality to a story that added a layer of complexity and beauty that, in this case, a cisgender actor wouldn’t have been capable of bringing. She transitioned like 14 years ago in a country like Chile when there was no information about it. She was a pioneer, and she carries that history—and the camera caught that.
“I never thought that it (casting a transgender) was going to be that important in the sense of how the film is perceived. If that can contribute to keep expanding the horizons of our thinking, that’s welcome.”
Sam Rockwell on why he dedicated his best supporting actor triumph for “Three Billboards …” to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman: “I guess you want to start making me cry. He was an old friend of mine. He directed me in a play at The Public Theater. He was an inspiration to my peers. People like Jeffrey Wright, Billy Crudup, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Brolin.
“Whoever was in my age range, Phil Hoffman was the guy. And he was a great director, and he believed in doing theater. He vowed to do a play a year, which I don’t know if he got to do because he was very busy doing movies. I don’t know if anybody knows that Phil was a bit of a jock. He was a wrestler and he played basketball. I could go on for an hour about Phil Hoffman.”
Earlier, on the red carpet parade, the two “Call Me by Your Name” stars made the boldest fashion statement among the gents—Timothée Chalamet in white and Armie Hammer in deep burgundy velvet.
Ansel Elgort, who attended the same high school (New York’s LaGuardia, aka the “Fame” school) with Timothée where they had the same drama teacher, auditioned for the same plays and played on the same basketball team, also stood out in a green velvet tux jacket.
Also impressive for pulling off their daring fashion choices in velvet were Daniel Kaluuya (brown) and Oscar Isaac (black).
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