I remember the first year I was really invested in the outcome of the Academy Awards. I was 7 or 8, and Titanic was up for Best Picture. My mom, who taught me everything I know about pop culture, was in serious fangirl mode over the whole thing — she had a Heart of the Ocean replica necklace, we had a 3-D puzzle of the ship itself, and she had let me watch the movie on VHS with her, fast forwarding through the naughty scenes.
But I also had a strict bedtime.
At 8 p.m. (very strict), I was told it was time for me to retire. But I couldn’t survive, much less sleep without knowing the outcome! So I snuck back out of bed and did what I do best – eavesdropped – and heard the audio of the telecast as Titanic took home the Best Picture Oscar.
After that, every Oscar Sunday was an event. We decorated, chose food that represented each best picture — including a particularly inspired choice to wrap miniature cans of tuna salad in MNU packaging to represent cat food for District 9 — and settled in to watch the telecast with favorites and long-shots all written on our ballots. I loved seeing each film, judging the merits and learning about what made a great film — according to the Academy and according to my own opinions. The pomp and circumstance of the whole affair made me dream of the day when I’d be on the red carpet myself.
Sunday was that day.
Being on the red carpet is crazy. There are famous faces, less-famous faces who are also nominated for awards, publicists, journalists, dates, families, and everyone in between. But alongside the chaos, there are fabulous clothes and hairstyles and glitz and glam at every turn.
I kept having “best” moments. Spotting Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton across the carpet, I made a strangled squealing sound. When Chris Evans walked by and looked over and smiled really big and waved, and when Jeremy Renner sprinted past, making a face in our general direction like “I love ya, but not enough to talk to ya.” (Avengers was one of my favorite movies of the year.) Almost running into George Clooney at the end of the night when we were filing out of the press room, where he was apparently trying to go, and hearing his velvety voice say “We’re swimming upstream!”
But celebrity gawking aside, being at the Oscars is a chance to be inspired. The people being honored are talented, creative artists who create a product through the blood, sweat, and tears of hundreds of contributors. There is so much passion, so much emotion swirling around in this group of actors, directors, producers, designers, mixers, and what have you. In the pressroom, we had a bit more time to hear from the award winners, when they’d caught their breath and collected their thoughts.
Quentin Tarantino joked around with the reporters, doing accents as he acted out a scene that was ultimately cut from Django Unchained. If ever there was a man who was an individual, and stuck to his guns, it is Tarantino. His confidence paid off as he won Best Original Screenplay, and he declared that he makes films for the entire planet Earth. On some scale, his individuality makes him relatable – and someone that I admire as a man who doesn’t let anyone tell him to tone it down.
Anne Hathaway was so gracious. She talked to us journalists about how every day, on every project, she feels she has to push herself to new heights. Just because she is now an Oscar winner doesn’t mean she can coast, because after each film wraps, she finds herself looking for work again, she said backstage. She explained that the universe is tipped in the favor of matter, versus anti-matter, and that a positive attitude and hard work – and never settling – will help you achieve your dreams.
The truly grateful honorees seemed very surprised to win. Ben Affleck was asked at which point he felt certain that Argo would win. He replied “when they handed us the trophies, I felt confident that we would win.” He said this is not a game of entitlement. You work hard, you put out the best product you can, and then you hope that you become recognized for it.
The boldest words came from Chris Terrio, who won for Best Adapted Screenplay for Argo.
“You have to wake up every morning and feel that you’re writing something that you love because writing is such a lonely and depressing profession so just stick to your scripts and hopefully somebody will hear your voice,” Terrio said.
And in the end, that’s the bottom line. Do what you do, do it well, and in time you will be rewarded. Like maybe with a day at the Oscars.
Amanda Taylor is an intern at EW’s Los Angeles bureau.