Outside the Shrine Auditorium, as I scribbled autographs, mugged for the paparazzi, and got coos from fellow Oscar attendees, it finally sunk in: They like me, they really like me. Well, maybe not me. But someone who looks a lot like me.
You see, for the past few months, I’ve been told I’m a clone of ”that middle guy from Shine” — a.k.a. Noah Taylor, the gangly, gawky fellow who portrayed pianist David Helfgott as an adolescent in the scenes before Geoffrey Rush took over and jabbered his way to an Academy Award.
Seeing as the bona fide Taylor was tied up in his native Australia this month, I thought it only proper — in the grand tradition of investigative reporting — to slip on a pair of Orville Redenbacher glasses, muss up my Dutch-boy hairdo, adopt my best Sydney accent (which unfortunately sounds a lot like the Lucky Charms leprechaun), and attend the Oscars undercover. As a star. After all, I had burning questions to answer. Would I discover a secret celebrity handshake? (No.) Would I be overtaken with the urge to open a theme restaurant? (No.) Would I have to take off my pants to get noticed? (Absolutely not.) As soon as I stepped on to the red carpet, a bleacherful of fans started screaming ”Noah! Noah!” I waved, and they all stood and whooped. I signed programs with the crowd-pleasing tag line ”Shine on!” I dodged the press with mock humility, telling MTV’s Chris Connelly, ”I don’t want to take away from Geoffrey’s big night.” (Persistent Chris made another plea, arguing ”But [Geoffrey] said your performance inspired him!”)
I learned how fickle fame can be. Once Claire Danes arrived, I was last minute’s news. Luckily, more positive reinforcement awaited inside: By night’s end, at least 40 Oscar attendees had done some serious butt kissing. ”Phenomenal.” ”I love you.” And, most touching of all, ”I voted for you.” In fact, my admirers were outraged I didn’t get nominated. ”You were robbed!” said one. I agreed, noting that I’ve been so bitter, I’ve trashed eight hotel rooms. ”Good for you!” he said. They asked about my next project (”I want to do some big event movie with earthquakes and hurricanes”), how I managed to sweat so much in that one scene (”Hoses”), and whether I knew that fellow Aussie Paul Hogan was a fan (”Isn’t that nice?”). I could do no wrong.
After the show, Operation Shine came to a fitting climax: Fellow thespian Chris Farley gushed, ”You were wonderful,” adding that he especially liked my piano playing. ”Well,” I said, ”that was done by a double.”