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Backstage at the Oscars: talking with the winners

Backstage at the Oscars: talking with the winners — Adrien Brody, Nicole Kidman, and Michael Moore address the politics of wartime awards — while others simply celebrate

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Adrien Brody, Nicole Kidman, ...
Adrien Brody and Nicole Kidman: John Mabanglo/AFP Photo/NewsCom

As the stars stepped backstage during and after an Oscar ceremony that mixed some politics with a lot of the usual hoopla, they brought more of the same.  At first it seemed that the strongest anti- and pro-war commentary would be left to the protesters outside, with Best Supporting Actor winner Chris Cooper making only a vague plea for peace, which he refused to elaborate on backstage. ”Because the situation is constantly changing,” he said. ”I think minds will be changed.”

But halfway through the show politics came to the forefront.  After slamming Bush during his acceptance speech, Michael Moore came backstage to explain his decision to speak out: ”It would be irresponsible of me not to say what I felt. Anyone who voted for me knew I wasn’t going to thank agents, lawyers, and the agents of lawyers. I’m an American, and you don’t leave your citizenship when you enter the doors of the Kodak Theatre.”

Though some audience members booed Moore, the director did his best to put a positive spin on what sounded like a negative reaction: ”Hollywood voted for this award and stood up when it was announced.  Don’t report that there was a split decision in the hall because five loud people booed. Those were all my friends and relatives. Hollywood’s got such a bad rap for being left-wing Democrats, I thought it would be really cool if a bunch of them booed to show a diversity of opinion. But really, the country is united. The majority of Americans do not want to see our young boys killed, and the majority of people didn’t vote for the man sitting in the White House, and I’ll keep saying that until he’s out of there.”

Best Actor winner Adrien Brody also elaborated on his pro-peace statements, which were met with applause during the show. ”It’s a difficult thing to do, celebrate when there is sadness and conflict in the world,” he said after the ceremony. ”But our achievements are valid, and we deserve to celebrate that. Still, the timing, for me, was a little odd.” War isn’t stopping him from hitting the party circuit, though. ”This doesn’t happen very often, and I will celebrate. I’m filled with joy, but I’m sad about that. I still feel for the suffering that exists in this world.”

Best Screenplay winner Pedro Almodóvar also spoke out against the war backstage, saying he was embarrassed that Spanish leaders had chosen to support President Bush and the war in Iraq. ”Ninety percent of Spanish people are against the war, but that doesn’t mean there is any anti-American sentiment,” he said, adding that he was dedicating his award to those people who were choosing to speak out against the conflict. Maybe he could just share his trophy with Michael Moore.

Not everyone was interested in protesting the war, however. Best Actress winner Nicole Kidman admitted she had considered not coming to the show at all, saying ”You do think, ‘Should I come? Is this frivolity?’ There are far more serious things in the world happening, but at the same time, art is an important part of our lives. It’s not so much a celebration, but a tribute.” Honorary award winner Peter O’Toole expanded on that idea: ”I’m an entertainer; that’s my job. And the men, women, children, and soldiers — my job is to cheer them up, if I can. I was six years old when a bomb landed on Hiroshima, so I’m quite accustomed to it.” As to whether or not the Oscars should have gone on, he added, ”If we civilians can’t go on properly, what are they fighting for?”

”Chicago” producer and Best Picture winner Martin Richards said that, though stars like Colin Farrell wore the peace pin, he wasn’t interested. ”I have a pin that says peace, and it’s in my heart,” Richards said. ”I wouldn’t wear the peace pin because I wouldn’t want any soldier to see me wearing it and think it’s about him. I made that mistake with Vietnam, and I regret how that may have made the men who fought over there feel. But I do hope there is peace.  I do want this war to be over.”

Also notable were the evening’s no-see-ums, Best Song winner Eminem and Best Director winner Roman Polanski. The win for Polanski, who is restricted from re-entering the United States because of a 1977 conviction for statutory rape, was a shock to those who had placed their bets on a sentimental win for Scorsese.  Asked about Polanski’s win, Peter O’Toole quipped: ”I met him a long time ago. Strange little bugger. Quite liked him though.” As for Eminem, his song collaborator Luis Resto said the rapper wasn’t dissing the Oscars, but simply needed a break. ”He’s been really, really busy, but believe me, he’s going to love it,” he said. ”He’s going to be stunned and grateful and very overjoyed.”

Amazingly, a few stars found time to squeeze in some traditional movie talk after the show. Kidman, who may star in ”Bewitched” as her next project, said she doesn’t think a TV sitcom adaptation is a step down for an Oscar winner, noting, ”You do drama, you do comedy, and as an actor you look to be diverse. Just because I won this now, I still think, ‘ Oh my gosh, I could get fired.’ Everything is new, in terms of creating a new role. You can’t take anything for granted.”

At the end of an evening that alternated between upset wins and antiwar statements, at least a few winners seemed to feel the usual euphoria of Hollywood’s big night. Brody, crowing over his impromptu smooch with presenter Halle Berry, said: ”Well, if you ever have an excuse to do something like that, that is it. So I took my shot. It was part of her gift bag for presenting.” Best Supporting Actress winner Catherine Zeta-Jones was equally enthusiastic. ”I’m still in shock, but I just know this is a dream come true for me tonight,”  she said, adding, ”My Oscar is going to be in the middle of my husbands’, but a little further forward than his.” Finally, what the awards show really needed: diva power.