Winning an Oscar has to be a flabbergasting experience. As the heavy lights beam down and a worldwide television audience awaits your every word, it must be near impossible to succinctly say what you intended to say. Luckily, there’s the backstage press room, which provides Oscar winners a chance to thank those they forgot to mention and discuss at great length what the awards mean to them. Or, in the case of Sandra Bullock, it’s an opportunity to reveal exactly what a Best Actress winner desires most after winning an Academy Award: “I just want a burger!”
Twenty-four Oscars were handed out onstage last night. But what about backstage? Here are the individuals who made the most memorable impression in the press room:
Most eloquent: This, without a doubt, goes to The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, who was asked right off the bat about the significance of being the first woman to win Best Director. “I hope I’m the first of many,” Bigelow said. “I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker, and I long for the day when a modifier can be a moot point. But I’m ever grateful if I can inspire some young, intrepid, tenacious male or female filmmakers and have them feel that the impossible is possible.”
Person who lit up the room: Sandra Bullock, fresh off of delivering a truly magnetic acceptance speech, still had plenty of charm remaining for the reporters backstage. Bullock was asked about the Razzie she won Saturday night for her role in the clunker All About Steve, and the actress, who actually showed up at the ceremony to accept the statue, said she plans to keep her Oscar and Razzie next to each other. “They’ll sit side-by-side in a nice little shelf somewhere,” Bullock said. “Well, the Razzie maybe on a different shelf, a lower shelf.”
Bullock was also game to answer a reporter’s question in German (a journalist next to me said that Bullock’s accent was perfect), and she even reflected upon her now-legendary kiss with Meryl Streep at the Critics’ Choice Awards. “I think no one realizes how much fun Meryl Streep is,” Bullock remarked. “That’s why it makes the headline. She’s an awesome broad, and I think she’s an extraordinary actor, but she’s also a really free, fun human being. I kissed Meryl. No one’s ever taken the bull by the horns like that before, but I did!”
Best “Dude” metaphor: Jeff Bridges, who is more similar to Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski than we may have initially realized, was his usual go-with-the-flow self backstage. However, the Best Actor winner did manage to put together a rather lovely metaphor when asked about his personal key to success. “The first thing that pops into my mind is my wife,” Bridges said. “She holds that kite string. She lets me go way out there, and then it’s so sweet being reeled back in. I love coming home.”
Biggest put-down of the press: Best Supporting Actress winner Mo’Nique elaborated on what she meant when she commended the Academy Awards for being “about the performance and not the politics.” Earlier in the awards season, Mo’Nique had been criticized by some in the media for not making all of the appearances an Oscar hopeful is seemingly supposed to make. Here was her response backstage: “Through this journey and process — and I’m sure some of you are sitting in this room right now — some reporters wrote, ‘Someone needs to teach Mo’Nique a lesson. Someone needs to tell her how this game is played.’ And I am very proud to be part of an Academy that says, ‘We will not play that game. We will judge her on her performance and not on how many dinners she attended and how many pictures she took. It’s on the screen.'”
Coolest Christmas card ever: Up director Pete Docter revealed that, in lieu of Christmas cards, he creates an animated flip book for relatives and friends. “It’s basically the same thing that we do at Pixar, only we use millions of dollars worth of computer equipment instead of, you know, 45 cents worth of paper,” he said. And so begins my quest to become a personal friend of Mr. Docter so that I, too, will one day receive a gnarly flip book.
Best political activism: Louie Psihoyos, who directed the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, which exposed the senseless slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. Psihoyos mentioned that his film will finally be released theatrically in Japan next month. “Our hope is the Japanese people will see this film and decide for themselves whether animals should be used for meat and for entertainment,” Psihoyos said. “Watching a dolphin in captivity would be like learning about humanity only by watching prisoners in solitary confinement. If you take a captive animal out of the wild and you force him to do stupid tricks for our amusement, it says more about our intelligence than it does theirs.”
Most moving: Avatar production designer Robert Stromberg said during his Art Direction acceptance speech that “13 years ago, the doctors told me I wasn’t going to survive.” Backstage, he was asked to speak about his prior illness, and while Stromberg wouldn’t dive into the details, he said this much: “It was a bout with something that was ready to kill me. And out of that, I told myself that I would spend whatever time I had here trying to do something profound and worthwhile. So from that point to tonight is a journey that I can’t explain to anybody. I’m the luckiest guy on the planet. This award to me is actually me understanding that I’m alive, and it’s very special.” The whole press room immediately applauded for the guy.
Applause-o-meter: Speaking of applause, two specific moments garnered the loudest reaction from the 300 or so reporters backstage. One was when Bigelow won Best Director, while the other occurred five minutes into the telecast. The press room, which was overall an exceptionally run affair, ran into a technical glitch with the telecast’s audio feed. As a result, nobody could hear Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number. All the journalists in the room quickly became annoyed, and when the ceremony’s audio was finally restored, you would have thought we had just won the Lottery.
Silent T-Bone: When songwriters Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett won for Best Original Song (“The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart), Bingham did all the talking. The press room was later told that Mr. Burnett would not be coming backstage because he wasn’t feeling well, which perhaps explains why he kept quiet onstage.
Biggest laugh of the night: We missed many of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin’s zingers because it’s nearly impossible to pay attention to the telecast while a winner is answering questions backstage. However, the sight of Ben Stiller as a Na’vi brought down the house.
Single best line backstage: “I was all over him.” ~ Star Trek makeup artist Mindy Hall when asked about doing the makeup for star Chris Pine.