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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Backstage at the Oscars: 2015

Reason no. 1,341 why I love writing the annual “Oscars Backstage” column: My agent.

I need a slightly smaller version of this one!
Last year, I reported on my tear-inducing plea to my agent imploring him to draw a map for me so I could be in a position to bring him that wondrous eight-pound statuette. After his two-word reply ("I will"), I was buoyed by the prospects. Multiple scripts in hand and a fully rehearsed Oscars acceptance speech in hand has gotten me nothing.

And yet …

I keep dreaming. We keep dreaming. We take the words of Best Adapted Screenplay winner Graham Moore ("The Imitation Game") when he says on stage, "Stay weird, stay different. And then when it's your turn and you're standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along."

Powerful stuff. I almost cried. Again, here's to dreaming.

The red carpet was something to behold once again...rainy with a frenzy of Haute Couture and modified tuxedos. I had an optimum spot next to Rolling Stone magazine, mostly because I overheard so much. Like how shocked Michael Keaton said he was to be nominated for his first Oscar and how Julianne Moore said her her two dogs are "more work than my kids." John Travolta was all hands on the red carpet and onstage (nearly groping Idina Menzel Alas, there was no Jennifer Lawrence or Angelina Jolie to stalk, er, photograph. That, however, did not derail this Media Guy. I found a new favorite: Marion Cotillard.

She has an amazing allure and even giggled when I said "take me home with you to France." Made me root for her all night, but who can argue with the performance of Julianne Moore in "Still Alice" and that incredibly infectious laugh. It pays to be Alec Baldwin's wife onscreen these days...

And, although the Neil Patrick Harris hosted show dropped 14% over last year's Ellen DeGeneres selfie-fest, it was still watched by 34.6 million between 8:30 and 11 PM (early results). That's why advertisers spend a $1.95 million for a thirty second commercial on Oscars telecast.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's The Media Guy's journey and perspective backstage at the 87th Academy Awards® with a handful pictures and about 1,500 words including interview excerpts and intimate insights.

Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Finally with Uncle Oscar. Julianne brings home the gold (Aaron Poole / ©A.M.P.A.S.)
Q.    I just want to say that you are the most patient actress in town.  Five times nominated and you finally won it.  And I want to know, do you think they played a role in the way in that you won this for a film that meant so much to you?

A.    Oh, I don't know.  You know, I mean, I believe in ‑‑ I believe in hard work, actually, you know. And I think ‑‑ and I like stories about ‑‑ mostly I like stories about people.  I like stories about real people and real relationships and real families, and that's what I respond to.  And this movie had all of those things in it.  It was about a, you know, it's about a real issue and relationships and who we love and what we value.  And so that's important to me too.  But I mean, I think just, at the end of the day, it's the work.  You know, it's being able to do work that I love that's been so rewarding.  And this is just amazing.

Q.    We're very eager to see more films that are adult drama, serious films.  And I'm wondering, films like yours, BIRDMAN, do you think that will have some sort of impact in an industry that is driven by these, you know, huge special effects, that whole type of movies?

A.    I hope it does.  I think there's an audience for movies like this.  I go to the movies because, like I said, I like to see complicated, interesting stories about people and relationships, you know.  So I think whenever there's success with films like this, then they kind of ‑‑ even people think about them more.  I don't know.  You know, you never know.  You know, at the end of the day, Hollywood is also a business, so I think it depends on how many people buy tickets.

What's it like backstage? Watch it here:

Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Q.    Eddie, what are you going to be saying to Stephen Hawking following this win?  And are you going to be taking the statuette to show him as well?

A.    I think I will certainly go to Cambridge at some point to see Stephen, Jane, Jonathan, and the Hawking children.  They have been so kind to us the whole way through this process.  And it's ‑‑ I'm one of those people when I watch a film, I believe what I see on screen.  And so our responsibility to tell their story truthfully and authentically was...we felt it.  And so, their support throughout has been amazing.  Any excuse to go back to Cambridge, it's such a beautiful place.  So, yeah, I will definitely go and show it.

Redmayne is REALLY happy to be an Oscar winner. (Aaron Poole / ©A.M.P.A.S.)
Q.    First of all, very well deserved for an outstanding performance.  Can you express your feelings when you went up on stage and received the Oscar?  And how will you celebrate this amazing day?

A.    I didn't hear you say the word.  That's so weird.  How did I feel?  How did I feel?  I don't ‑‑ I mean, the fact that it was Cate Blanchett giving it, I mean I did a film called THE GOLDEN AGE ‑‑ ELIZABETH:  THE GOLDEN AGE with Cate and it's one of the first films I did, and I just think she's such an exceptional actor.  And so I was recovering from that excitement of seeing her, and then just trying to bury all this frenzy of nerves and white noise and trying to speak articulately and, of course, you then forget everything but it just felt like a euphoria really, an extraordinary euphoria.  It's something I will not forget in a hurry.

Q.    I wanted to ask you about the pressures of playing someone that is still alive because obviously there's a lot of bio pics, and there obviously is a huge weight like for Alan Turing and THE IMITATION GAME.  But with this, that person is going to watch that movie.  How did you feel about it and how did that change your approach to it?

A.    I don't know if it changed my approach, but what it did was there were various things of this job.  I ‑‑ in preparation, I met people living with ALS, they let me into their lives, they were incredibly kind to me.  It was essential to me that I was authentic to what that experience is like.  Then it's about the science, getting the science right, you know, and then of course the main thing about Stephen, Jane, Jonathan and the kids is being true to them and then also making an entertaining film.  There were basically so many things that like terrified me about this film, but of course it galvanizes you, it makes you ‑‑ when the stakes are that high, it does force you to work harder and so that's what I tried to do.  And yeah, it's been amazing.

J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

J.K. Simmons says call your mom and dad, but never text.
Q.    With all of your long credits in stage, screen, television, T.V. commercials, what does this Oscar win mean to you?

A.    Well, maybe more people saw me tonight than see me in the commercials for the first time, because I know those are seen by more people than the films.  This is the, you know, the cherry on top of this extraordinary experience that WHIPLASH has been for me.

Q.    I got the feeling that you wanted to talk a little more about when you said, "Call your mom.  Call your dad."  It felt like you wanted to go somewhere with that.

A.    I got out most of what I wanted to, and I was somewhat taken aback by the response from people that I don't know, honestly.  So, but no, I said most of what I wanted to say.  I never go up there scripted, really.  Most of it came out.

Q.    You know, this has been quite a triumphant time, and we always talk about, especially actors, how do you cope with the down times how, do you cope with the lean times.  I'm always fascinated with how do you cope with success?  How have these weeks added up, looking back?  Thrilled?  Scared?  What?

A.    Yeah, it's definitely more tiring than the lean times.  The lean times, you get plenty of sleep, and you are not flying around everywhere.  So there is that.  And for me, the lean times were a wonderful and beautiful part of my life, you know.  I was, you know, struggling, quote/unquote, for many years doing regional theatre for not much money all over the country and doing odd jobs in between, but I didn't have a wife and kids to support.  So I had no responsibilities other than feeding myself and trying to be a decent human being and trying to get better at what I was wanting to do.  And I look back on those times with great fondness.

Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Jared Leto congratulates Arquette. (Monica Almeida/The New York Times)
Q.    What was the biggest challenge in this project for you?

A.    The weird thing is there was no challenge, in a weird way.  I was just amazed that this filmmaker, Richard Linklater, wanted to make a movie about everyday people, people we don't usually see in movies, and that he could get financing because it is a film business after all, and you can't have a contract because Olivia de Havilland fought for us not to be in indentured servitude. So we have a seven‑year contract rule in America.  So, this little boy could have decided at seven years he wanted to walk away.  And even though it was a small budget movie, $2.8 million, he could have walked away in the middle of our movie.  To sort of find a financier to give us money, even though it was just $2.8 million.  That's a big investment to make with no safety net.  And I was actually kind of blown away that the Producers Guild didn't honor that because that really was such a brave move.

Q.    What do you think, given the comments you made tonight about someone like Amy Pascal, the former Sony Pictures head who said, effectively, that women should be better negotiators, that it's not up to her to pay women more when she has effectively underpaid women.

A.    Again, I think we need federal laws that are comprehensive; in different states, they have altogether thrown out the Fairness Voting Act.  People think we have equal rights; we won't until we pass a Constitutional amendment in the United States of America where we pass the ERA once and for all and women have equal rights in America we won't have anything changed.  This morning, you know, there's these things, the Mani Cam and so on and what are you wearing.  I'm wearing a dress my best friend designed.  We have been best friends since we were 7 and 8 years old.  I think she was the first person who ever said to me, what do you want to be when we grow up?  We were standing next to her Barbie Dream House.  I made fun of her because she played with a Barbie and my mom wouldn't let us have Barbies.  She said, what do you want to be?  And I said I want to be an actor. What do you want to be?  She said, I want to be in fashion.  And she became a great fashion designer and she designed my gown, so it's like wearing love.  And we started an organization, And instead of getting a manicure, which I was supposed to do this morning for that dreaded Mani Cam, instead, I ended up trying to pull pictures because we started a sweepstakes this morning for our charity to do ecological sanitation in the world.  Now when I saw Harry Belafonte's picture up there, I remembered my mom.  She was an Equal Rights activist, she worked for civil rights.  And this is who I am.  This is the whole who I am.  I love my business, I love acting and I love being a human being on earth and I want to help.  I never saw this moment in me winning an Academy Award.  I never even thought I would be nominated and I was okay with that.  But you know what I did see?  I saw many things that have come true in my life, and one of them was helping thousands and thousands of people, and I have, and I will, and I will help millions of people.  Thank you.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu "Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance"

The Big Winner of the Night.
Q.    Congratulations on your win.  You joked on stage that you were wearing the BIRDMAN tighty‑whities.  Are you actually wearing them?

A.    We should be in a more intimate context to show you, which I don't think will happen.

Q.    Alejandro, tell me, from having this wild, artistic idea and seeing it all the way through to experience three Oscars with you, what's the lesson of that for you?  What does that tell you about your ambitions?

A.    About what, sorry?

Q.    To take ‑‑ just like following this dream, how does the trophy sort of validate what you are doing?

A.    You know, actually, I think ‑‑ it's a good question because I haven't figured out why I did what I did in this film, why I took those chances.  I think it's when you lose fear.  I think fear is an incredible ‑‑ fear is the condom of life, you know.  It doesn't allow you to enjoy things, so certainly when you fucking get the condom out then you say, okay, probably get it or not, but at least that's what it's ‑‑ so I put it out.  So I did it without and this is the result.  It was real.  It was making love for sure.

Past Oscars Columns:
2014 - 2013 - 2012


Who wore it better...?

...or Lady Gaga?
He's got chills and they are a multiplying!:

John Travolta continues his Oscars onslaught. This time, Scarlett Johansson is the victim.
John Legend and Common were epic:

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun starring Kerry Washington and Viola Davis...

Caught a gander at THE ENVELOPES!

The famous envelopes are 75 years old, though Oscar itself is 87 years old. Two extra sets of the Oscars envelopes are made, as emergency backups. Red lacquered lining is waxed to ensure the card with winner's name is fumble-proof. The stuffing of the envelopes takes place outside of the studio, in a top-secret process that protects the Academy's picks. Weighing a quarter of a pound, each costing $200 each to produce and seen by millions of viewers around the world, it's the Oscar envelope.
It bears, after all, the Oscar winner's name.

Finally, my top six favorites from the red carpet:

6) Jared Leto as he fights the rain...

5) Anna Kendrick in her raspberry heaven of a dress...

4) The fedora'ed J.K. Simmons...

3) The spunk and fun of Reese Witherspoon...

2) Capt. Red Carpet: Adam Levine...

And my #1 favorite: Marion Cotillard:

With that, I'll see you next year on the red carpet with an update from my agent!