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Backstage at the Oscars

EW Online was there as Gwyneth Paltrow worked the phones, Steven Spielberg dissed the press, and Roberto Benigni started his campaign of making love to everyone in the world

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Roberto Benigni
Corbis

”Shakespeare in Love” star Gwyneth Paltrow may have snatched an Oscar out from under the noses of such acting greats as Meryl Streep and Fernanda Montenegro on Sunday night, but that doesn’t mean the 26-year-old actress isn’t above a little secretarial work. When Paltrow was interrupted by the ring of a reporter’s cell phone during her post-award press conference, she asked for the offending object and, instead of smashing it against the wall, answered the call. ”Hello? Is Jamie Campbell here?” Paltrow asked in perfect secretary-speak. ”Are you available for Nick? Hold on just a minute.” Paltrow then gracefully handed over the phone as reporters applauded.

When asked about her ”friend” Ben Affleck, Paltrow got dodgy on the subject of her onetime companion, saying only that ”everybody in the cast was really supportive” prior to her nomination. But Paltrow was more forthright than some winners. Spielberg skipped out on the press despite his Best Director win, presumably pouting for not nabbing the Best Picture award as well. Elia Kazan was also a no-show backstage, causing some reporters to mumble that the protesters labeling the ”On the Waterfront” director a coward had the right idea.

Other winners were not so cagey about their feelings. Best Supporting Actor winner James Coburn took his moment in the spotlight to rail against the new generation of actors he’s had the displeasure of costarring with recently. ”I’ve been working with a bunch of kids lately, and they’re really weird,” grumbled Coburn. ”They don’t know their craft. They have a retinue, somebody who takes care of their face, somebody who takes care of their hair, somebody who takes care of their toiletries. I don’t even know who they are. It’s all about let’s show some bodies and some t–s and a–.”

While most winners blushed and stammered over their surprise at winning, Best Supporting Actress victor Dame Judi Dench was the only one who seemed genuinely befuddled that her name was called. ”I think I’m basically a realist, and I didn’t for a second think that 8 minutes worth of (screen time) was worth an Oscar,” shrugged Dench. ”The makeup took longer than the filming.”

Finally, Roberto Benigni, whose ”Life Is Beautiful” snapped up three awards, proved to be the most entertaining winner. He explained that his acceptance-speech desire to make love to the ”entire world” was metaphorical. ”My wife, she’s the entire world,” Benigni gushed. He added that ”American women, they are really wonderful women. In the streets, they are very expressing to me such an amount of good things. You think, what a vain man, but no. This don’t happen in the other countries. I have to thank American women very very much.” Benigni then remarked to a female journalist that she was ”very nice — I like you” and leaped towards her, kissing her on both cheeks before bounding out of the room.