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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Backstage at the Oscars: 2014

Awards Season is over and yet my dreams have only been elevated. My drive accelerated. A few minutes after the Academy Award telecast had ended, I whipped off an email to my agent begging him:

The Media Guy at the Oscars.
"I know I bore you with this...but I have to win an Oscar...Once you told me that the best clients you have are the ones that want to make the money and win awards. No drama. Nothing else. PLEASE. Make it happen from the business side. Draw me a map and I'll follow it."

His reply?: "I will."

Here's to dreaming.

My annual Media Guy column on the Oscars has become a tradition and easily the one that gets the most requests. I am fortunate enough to have been be part of this event for the last three years. One day I hope to walk the red carpet instead of working it.

Again, here's to dreaming.

Before we go backstage, let's revisit Flubgate. You know Flubgate. That fabulous second-and-a-half where John Travolta now infamously introduced Idina Menzel (Ih-deen-ah Men-zelle) as Adele Dazeem. Whoops!

I will admit that even after seeing the amazing Disney move "Frozen" that her name was a mystery to me. But Travolta took the science of mangling a name to unknown heights, er, depths. So much so that there is an online app where you type in any name and “Travoltifies” it for you. Travolta's PR machine has gone into retreat mode with his publicist releasing a cutsie-canned statement musing on what would Menzel say (WWMS): “She’d say, ‘Let it go, let it go!”--an obvious salute to her Oscar-winning song.

Surely Menzel must have been a bit irritated that her name was butchered in front of a billion people who barely knew her anyway right? Apparently, in true McDonald's style, she's lovin' it! In the last few days alone, David Letterman themed a Top 10 list to her, her Twitter followers have surged to over to a half million, she earned a coveted spot on the “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and sales to her new Broadway show are hot, hot, hot.

All this proves one time-honored truth: There is no such thing as bad publicity. And now one with the show.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's The Media Guy's journey and perspective backstage at the 86th Academy Awards® with five pictures and about 1,500 words including interview excerpts and intimate insights.

Jennifer Lawrences laughs with McConaughey about her tripping episodes.
Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Best Lead Actor

Q. What does it feel to have your first one [Oscar] with your first nomination right now with you?
A. Feels... I'm not going to say surreal. I did not expect it. But it's the end ‑‑ it's a bit of the end of a journey with this film that I mean, the script that came across my desk four years ago.  And also, my wife and I were talking about it this morning when we woke up, not knowing what would happen tonight, saying, hey, whatever happens tonight, four years ago, I decided to go to work doing four films a year. That was easy for me to do. She came with the kids, followed me everywhere, and we went, and it was harder for her than it was for me.

And now, the ultimate light, the gold standard of the light of excellence is shined on it ["Dallas Buyers Club"], not just in my performance, but we had a couple of other things tonight. We had six nominations. Jared won, the makeup and hair won with a $250 budget. Oh, they were stealing charcoal and stuff to do our makeup.  That's extra rewarding for me because I was a part of that team that was pushing this thing, trying to push the thing over the hill that nobody wanted to make.

And I'm standing here now. It's something that I got to ‑‑ I got a prize for excellence for the work I do in something that's not my job, it's not my hobby and it's not my fad; it's my career. That feels wonderful.

Leto with 2013 Oscar winner Anne Hathaway
Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Q. Jared, your collaborators in makeup and hairstyling have just won one of those statues. Can you talk about your collaboration with them in this performance?
A. Well, you know, they had a budget of $250. I'm not joking. That's the truth. And they worked the hardest out of anyone on the entire set. Makeup, hair, they're always the first to set in the morning. I don't know if you guys probably know this. They show up at the crackass of dawn, and they leave at the crackass of dawn. They're there all the time and they were tireless, tireless workers. And essential to the building of these characters and performances. Thank you.

Q. I wanted to ask you, you talked about the dreamers. You took time to talk about dreamers and people who have felt they were subjected to injustices.
A. Yes.

Q. Why did you want to take moments to express your thoughts to these people on this occasion?
A. That's a great question. Number one, because it's important to me. Number two, because I think it's appropriate to the material, to the story, to the film. And number three, because you have an opportunity when you stand on this stage. You can make it about yourself or you can hold up a mirror and shine a light, and that's what I chose to do tonight. I mean, because of Thirty Seconds to Mars, because I'm in a band, how many people are here from outside of the ‑‑ of the USA? Quite a few of you. Okay. Good. I'm at home then. But I feel at home all over the world. And you know, for me, these global issues impact us in a really direct way.

Let me give you an example. We have a show in the Ukraine in a couple of weeks. We have a show in Thailand in a few weeks. We had a show in Venezuela in the works. So, these things, social unrest, you know, social issues like this affect us in a really immediate way. So, I felt on behalf of the people that I interact with on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, and my own interests as, you know, a global ‑‑ being a person in a global band, it was important to address those things. Thank you.

Blanchett was ever prideful the Aussie Talent.
Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Best Actress in a Leading Role

Q. You said you were determined to figure out a way to have fun in this process.  Could you possibly have fun on a day like today that meant so much, worrying about rain and worrying about Academy Awards?
A. Oh, this city needs rain so badly.  I mean, you know, it's a little slight inconvenience when you're wearing a dress, but it's so good for the reservoir.  So, no, I didn't worry about that.  And I had the most phenomenal massage this morning.

Q. What are your hopes in continuing to challenge yourself in acting?
A. Maybe it's time to stop.  Look it's ‑‑ roles like this don't come along very often, and as I think I said, or I hope I said, or I imagined I said, that it was a real synthesis for me of the long, deep connection I've had with the theatre.  And the kind of often sort of intangible connection I've had to film.  And I think Woody Allen and the script that he wrote provided me that forum to kind of make that synthesis happen.  You know, someone who is ‑‑ had a very fragmented sense of self.  I mean, I don't think I could have approached that in as bold a way as perhaps I did risking for a year as I did without having worked with the folks at the Sydney Theatre Company as intensively as I have.

Is that enough?  Surely there's someone else that you can feed on.

Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years A Slave"
Best Supporting Actress in a Leading Role

Q. Maya Angelou says that we are more alike than we are different.  And you have been the it girl on this entire award season journey and have met a whole lot of people.  So my question is:  What on this journey that you've been on, are you going to take and understand about the human spirit?
A. Hmm.  That's a tough one.  Oh, that's tough.  But I ‑‑ I don't know whether I can answer that question.  What I will say is that what I have learned for myself is that I don't have to be anybody else; and that myself is good enough; and that when I am being true to that self, then I can do ‑‑ I can avail myself to extraordinary things such as this, you know, that I didn't ‑‑ if ‑‑ that I didn't think was necessarily possible; but I ‑‑ I didn't cancel it out of my realm of ‑‑ of ‑‑ of possibility, and I think that's the thing.  You have to allow for the impossible to be possible.

Q. You've been known for your incredible acting and your fashion on the red carpet, but you've also been really known for your poised attitude.  You're very humble.  What has led you to become this way and will continue to be such a humble lady in this industry?
A. I think credit must be given to my parents.  I have phenomenal parents.  My father is famous in his own right, has done amazing things for our country, Kenya, and my mother, too.  She's a trailblazer.  She's ‑‑ she's a pioneer.  And to watch those two people do so much and mean so much to everyone but not ‑‑ it doesn't ‑‑ but at the end of the day still have the humility to serve, I think ‑‑ I think their example because at the end of the day I ‑‑ I just feel it is my deeds that are more important than my ‑‑ than my fame or ‑‑ you know?  Yeah.  I ‑‑ yeah.

Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"
Best Directing

Q. The first time that you were on stage tonight, you didn't give any speech.  Were you risking some uncomfortable conversations if you didn't get back on stage a second time to thank your family and everybody else or were you confident that you would have another chance?
A. No.  I mean, you don't think so much about the other chance because when you're so used to lose, you don't think you're going to have another break.  But it was good that a lot of great people that were around that make this film happen, particularly from the editorial standpoint, were acknowledged.  Part of the editorial thing, that yes, I said it before that I think is very important is that we are serving performances, and I don't think that enough was said about Sandra's performance.

Q. You've got an Oscar in each hand.  How does that feel?

A. Balanced.  Heavy.  No, it's fantastic.  Look, what is fantastic of this evening is that this has been a very long process.  And, as I said in the speech, yes, it has been a very transformative process for a lot of folks involved in the film.  And this just marks a closure, and I'm so grateful for ‑‑ I'm grateful with GRAVITY and these and the fact that some other members of the artistic team that made this film happen were celebrated.  It's a joy. 


Past Oscars Columns:
2013 - Backstage at the Oscars: 2013
2012 - Backstage at the Oscars