What the winners couldn’t say onstage
LOS ANGELES—Some of the biggest stars in the world laughing, weeping, babbling away (one of them approaching incoherence) as they met only accredited media men from all over the world, your columnist included. We witnessed all of that backstage at the Oscars Sunday night (Monday in Manila).
Actually, “backstage” was the interview room at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, which is connected to the Dolby Theater, where the Academy Awards show was held.
Anne Hathaway, best supporting actress winner for “Les Miserables,” struggled to rein in her words as she recalled her acceptance speech: “And so, all I was saying was that it (a dream) can (come true) and it did.” She stopped, then apologized. “Excuse me. That’s not articulate.”
Anne was, in fact, more successful in articulating how she felt about “Les Mis” lead star Hugh Jackman: “If you think about it, I mean, not to get serious, but we do live in a world that can tend toward the cynical, and to have someone in a film like this where it’s inherent to the film’s success that you believe in the goodness of the central character, and also believe that someone like Hugh exists who has that goodness within him… it made the film soar!”
Hard to forget
Asked how playing Fantine affected her, Anne replied, inadvertently speaking in code again: “I’ve done films before where I’ve played real people… and I’m thinking real people, but a character… you know what I mean, a character based on a real situation. And I’m thinking specifically of ‘Rachel Getting Married,’ where I played a recovering addict who was in the ascent of her life of her recovery. And though it was difficult, it was painful, she was in a better place than she had been.”
The role made her more aware about the plight of sex workers everywhere, Anne added. “Playing Fantine, having to connect with the darkness of life, and I think maybe more to the point, the unnecessary suffering that human beings can inflict on each other, I would have loved to have gone home and forgotten about that every day, but you just can’t because it exists. And it exists for millions of men and women throughout the world. I think this film changed me because it made me more compassionate and more aware.”
Starts with ‘F’
In contrast, Jennifer Lawrence was the usual jester. “This isn’t like an auction, right?” she began her turn with the journalists, then turned to the Academy staff present. “You guys aren’t going to take [the trophy] away?”
On tripping on her way up the stairs to accept the best actress trophy, Jennifer, who wore a gown with a voluminous skirt, remembered exactly what went through her mind. “A bad word that starts with ‘F.’”
“JLaw” could never joke about “Silver Linings Playbook,” however. “It’s so bizarre how in this world, if you have asthma, you take asthma medicine; if you have diabetes, you take diabetes medicine. But if you have to take medication for your mind, there’s such a stigma behind it,” she noted.
In the movie directed by David O. Russell, whose son suffers from bipolar disorder, the character that Jennifer plays is mentally ill.
On dressing up for Oscars day, Lawrence related: “The process was very stressful. I felt like Steve Martin in ‘Father of the Bride,’ watching my house being torn apart, and my whole family getting ready. My friends stopped by—it was kind of fun, but it was mostly chaotic, yeah. I just woke up and tried on a dress, and it fit, thank goodness and then I took a shower. Then I got my hair and makeup done, and then I came here.”
She didn’t eat at all because she had been very stressed, she said. “And then I was starving in the car ride over, and that sucked,” revealed the actress who earned her first Oscar best actress nomination in 2011 for “Winter’s Bone.” But she was less nervous this year, she said. “I had been through it before, and I know more people now. That makes it a lot less awkward.”
And she’s only 22.
“Argo” producers Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov gave new meaning to the word “confident” in their hilarious exchange before the assembled writers.
“When they gave us the trophies I was confident that we would win (best picture),” Ben started. Grant jested, “Even as I was giving the speech, I didn’t think we could win.”
Added Ben, who was snubbed in the best director nominations which triggered a controversy and various theories on how that snub would help or not help “Argo’s” best picture chances: “I didn’t get too much into the Oscar-ology and the pontificating—or the guys who do that stuff and report on it, which is great… people like it and they’re interested in it. [I like that] people are interested in the Oscars because it helps our industry and helps make better films, but it doesn’t help me to read up on that stuff. So I was thrilled for Billy (William Goldenberg, winner for best editing) and Chris (Terrio, for best adapted screenplay), and when it came along, I was thrilled for these two guys.”
Daniel Day-Lewis, whose acceptance speech as best actor is still being talked about for being humorous and self-effacing, carried the light mood all the way to the interview room.
On his acceptance remarks throughout this awards season—each one an illustration of grace, wit and light-heartedness—Daniel said he himself came up with all of them. Nobody helped him. “I wish, I wish,” he said. “But if you can’t find your own words to say in such situations, I think that would be a little sad, wouldn’t it? But I kind of love it when people are completely inarticulate with their acceptance speeches, and say the same thing in a different way.”
It was daunting, he added, being a non-American and playing America’s most revered president. “I got plenty of grief from myself just imagining doing it,” he said. “I mean, if I got it wrong—which was perfectly possible, quite likely even—I might not be able to show my face in this country again. But grief from the outside, not yet, no.”
Ang, as usual
Ang Lee, best director winner, said of “Life of Pi” (calm and composed as always): “This is really an international film. I’m glad that Taiwan get to contribute this much to the film, therefore, present the movie to the whole world. I just feel like this movie really belongs to the world.”
Lee talked about celebrating his win, in time for the still ongoing Chinese New Year celebrations worldwide: “This is a great night for me and for everybody who liked the movie, particularly in Asia where they helped make this movie. I wish them a Happy New Year of the Snake. Everybody gets lucky.”
Lee discussed his feelings about finding success in the United States: “This is my adopted culture. I grew up watching American movies— the mainstream movies especially, all movies very much established here in America. And even just in terms of movie-making, nobody’s as sophisticated as they are here. I’m talking not just about art, but also about craft. The cinematic language is very much established here. That was something I had to adapt to, [although a] movie is basically sight and sound.”
He continued: “I spoke broken English when I did ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ After that, I thought it was overcome-able; I could do it. I just had to work harder. I [trusted] that I could do a lot with movies, but I had to be more diligent. Sometimes a disadvantage can be an advantage. I feel coming from another culture actually enriches me and makes me special. I adapted to the English-language way of thinking and working with great people here; I adapted to major-league production… you know, it’s like one culture on the left side of my brain, another on the right. You could use both sides of your head; that’s an advantage. So I encourage a lot more Asian filmmakers to give it a try… and reach the world culture. It really starts here in Hollywood.”
Talk, talk, talk
Quentin Tarantino said his intention for making “Django Unchained,” for which he won best original screenplay, was to promote talk about “what America was like, back then”—specifically, “America’s role in slavery.”
He added: “And to actually take an audience member from the 21st century and stick them in the antebellum South and see whether they would have a sense of that. Even the people who have criticized the movie—and a lot of people don’t like it and I can understand that, but a lot of people do like it—have been kind of going back and forth [talking about it]. And that back and forth is really what I really wanted at the end of the day.”
Tarantino prided himself in wearing the tag “international filmmaker.” He elaborated: “I have since the very beginning with ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ gone all around planet Earth, pretty much, promoting [everything] I’ve been doing… To me, America is just another market. I make my movies for planet Earth.”
10 minutes? Not!
Adele and cowinner and fellow composer Paul Epworth denied the stories that she recorded “Skyfall” in 10 minutes.
“We got the first draft down in 10 minutes.” Paul clarified. Adele said, smiling, “We had two studio sessions. It was a bit longer than that. We’re good, but we’re not that good.
Maybe a musical
On winning all these awards and possibly more in other fields in the future—and also what career path to choose—Adele said, “Maybe I’ll do, like, an HBO special like Beyoncé did. And then maybe [I’d like] a Tony (Award), I’m not so sure. One day maybe someone might want me to do a musical, though that’s not a probability at the moment.”
On being friends with Robbie Williams and possibly collaborating with him on a musical Adele said, “I don’t think so. We’re just enjoying being parents, really. His little girl is only two weeks older than mine. He’s very much a pro at it. And usually we just discuss how to stay out of the limelight, if anything. Unfortunately.”
Her plans after the interview? “I might go to the Vanity Fair party,” Adele replied. “That would be nice. But these days, one glass of champagne and I’m gone. And I’ve got to get up at 6 in the morning tomorrow.”
On working with different collaborators, Adele explained: “Well, with Paul, normally I go to him with an idea, and you (turns to Paul) have an idea ready for me as well, and normally we just kind of throw them at each other, and if something happens, which is certainly what happened with ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Rolling in the Deep,’ we’ve absolutely done well. But sometimes, you know, it’s a bit dry. You just have to connect and hope for the best, and to be really honest with whoever you’re working with, so that they get the idea.”
When Paul said, “It’s your strength,” Adele explained: “Yeah, it’s a ‘bad’ strength though because the whole world knows my business. But, you know, going into the studio and involving someone in your life… I cried the first time when I told Paul about my ex, didn’t I—telling the story, and then ‘Rolling in the Deep’ happened.”