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September 17, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Robert Duvall couldn’t remember the first Western he’d seen (he thinks it starred Gary Cooper, which really narrows it down) and Helen Mirren expounded on the already well-reported story that she declined an audience with the Queen because she was off working (or something). Still, plenty of fireworks ignited when the winners met the press backstage at the Emmys. Here’s a recap.

Terry O’Quinn, first-time winner as a supporting actor on Lost, started things with a foreboding comment: ”Did you see how many [Emmy statuettes] are [backstage]? It’s going to be a long night.” Backstage, O’Quinn continued the easygoing spirit he brought to his acceptance speech, explaining that the only thing running through his head while the nominees were announced was, ”As soon as this award is over, I can go to the bathroom.”

”When people meet me, they’re very bored with me,” contended Jeremy Piven, who won for his supporting role on Entourage for the second straight year. ”I am just a softie character actor from Chicago.” Well, he’s got the softie part right; Piven responded to almost every reporter’s query with ”That’s a great question,” and he began his time backstage by discussing the emotional journey of Ari Gold, the hard-bitten agent he plays on the show, and the inspiration of his late actor father. But then Piven tossed out this random aside: ”I’m the only straight man to bring his mother [to the Emmys] four times, and then his sister. You can look that up.” It was all downhill from there. A reporter asked Piven if it was weird to win for the summer 2006 season of Entourage; after a beat, the actor responded with a wry smile, ”I would receive something for something I did in junior high school, and take a victory lap, and do a press conference. Do you understand what actors are?” As the press room laughed, Piven took another beat, then mumbled into the mic, ”That’s the only thing that’ll come out of this [Q&A] session. Damn it. I was being so sensitive.” Well, that, and he did leave the press room with this random factoid: His sister is married to Talladega Nights director (and father to Internet sensation Pearl) Adam McKay.

You knew Current TV honcho Al Gore, who won Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive TV, wasn’t in Washington anymore when the first question he got backstage was about what he might have to offer Britney Spears. Fortunately, like the seasoned politician he is, Gore expertly evaded responding (and, by the way, no, he doesn’t plan to run for President in 2008). Indeed, Gore was in top form. Asked if, now that he has an Oscar and an Emmy, he will go for a Tony, he merely chuckled and said, ”Thank you very much!” When The Tonight Show‘s cookie lady, Marjorie Johnson, asked the former Vice President if he wanted any of her ginger snaps, he smiled and nodded and didn’t commit. It was only when a reporter pointed out that the press room was devoid of fluorescent bulbs that Gore’s inner environmentalist finally came out of hiding. ”I think they’re using LEDs back here,” he said after checking out the lights. ”I know that kind of sounds like a geek or a wonk, but I know that’s a step ahead of the compact fluorescent.” Ahhh. Nice to know some things never change.

The night’s biggest winner, Tony Bennett, was truly feeling the love backstage — and spreading it around. Standing with his entire Emmy-winning team, the Tony Bennett: An American Classic star praised his special’s helmer, Rob Marshall, as the ”best director I’ve ever worked with” — to which Marshall responded, ”That’s my Emmy right there, thank you, Tony.” And Marjorie the Cookie Lady struck again, asking Bennett, ”Do you like older women?” Bennett’s priceless reply: ”Only when I have Viagra.”

NEXT PAGE: ”I would’ve liked to have said more bleeped-out words, but that’s life.”

When she came backstage to speak with the press, it was unclear whether Sally Field, who won Best Actress in a Drama for her role on Brothers & Sisters, knew that the anti-war comment she made at the end of her speech — ”And let’s face it, if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place” — had been omitted from the Fox broadcast. But she certainly was unapologetic: ”That’s too bad. I wanted to say something about the mothers who wait for their military children to come home…. I don’t care. I have no comment other than, ‘Oh, well.’ I said what I wanted to say. I honestly believe that if mothers ruled the world, we wouldn’t be sending our children off to be slaughtered…. I probably shouldn’t have said the ‘God’ in front of the ‘damn.’ I would’ve liked to have said more bleeped-out words, but that’s life.”

The always reliable Jon Stewart (star of Best Variety Series The Daily Show) delivered some necessary irreverence after the show itself had ended, but before all the winners had made it backstage. So, Jon, any comment on all the censorship in the telecast? ”Did they [air] when I said ‘cock’? I had a huge ‘cock’ bit.” What are your plans for hosting the Oscars next year? ”I’ll probably lay off the Brokeback Mountain stuff. It probably won’t get nominated again.” If you were to interview O.J. Simpson in jail, what would you ask? ”Wait, he’s in jail? For the Vegas thing? [Pause] Is this how it goes down, Capone? You kill two people and they get you for knocking over a room in Vegas?”

If you were shocked by Boston Legal star James Spader’s unexpected win for Best Actor in a Drama (he’s actually won twice before), you’re not the only one: ”I was really dazed and confused when I was up there,” Spader told the press, ”because I really didn’t think I was going to win tonight. I thought for some time that unless they invented a category of ‘What the Hell Is This?’ that we wouldn’t be nominated for anything. I really thought anybody but myself [would win].”

Last year’s Emmy host, Conan O’Brien, was typically self-deprecating about his first-ever Emmy win. ”I had a giant Emmy shelf built, capable of holding 500 Emmys,” he quipped, ”so this one will sit there alone.” O’Brien also praised the night’s emcee, Ryan Seacrest, but worried that the American Idol host/E! News Daily anchor/drive-time radio jock/E! red carpet reporter maaaybe works a bit too hard: ”If he’s still [hosting] it in the parking lot, that’s going to be very sad.” Oh, and, Conan, did you hear about O.J. Simpson going to jail? ”Yeah, I just heard. Mary Hart told me. And the guy from Extra who used to be in a band told me about prime mortgage interest rates collapsing. I haven’t read a newspaper in 14 years. I just get my news from these guys.”

”To get this award tonight, obviously it felt fantastic,” said David Chase, creator of Best Drama winner The Sopranos, which (in case you hadn’t heard) ended its acclaimed run earlier this year. ”The best part of it was the huge standing ovation our cast got [earlier in the show]. That was really fitting, I thought.” Don’t worry, though: Chase was not growing sentimental in the bittersweet afterglow of his show’s final bow at television’s big night. For one thing, all that Best Show Ever talk? ”I don’t really believe it’s influenced television that much,” he said, flatly. ”I don’t see it.” And don’t hold your breath for a Sopranos feature film, either; the only one seriously talking about it, reported Chase, was cast member Tony Sirico — who spoke for an absent James Gandolfini with regard to the Best Actor upset. ”I think it was a shame,” said Sirico. ”He really deserved it. But we all won tonight.”

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