Billy Crystal rocks, Tyra Banks flops, and Hilary Swank shocks at the Oscars

Angelina Jolie
Credit: Fitzroy Barrett/Globe

This year’s Academy Awards may not have held too many surprises when the envelopes were opened (thanks in part to the Wall Street Journal, which polled Academy voters to correctly pick five out of the six key categories), but that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of surprises backstage. EW Online went behind the scenes of the newly revamped ceremony to find out what worked, who bombed, and why Hilary Swank forgot to thank the most important person on her list.

Best Date James Haven, brother of Best Supporting Actress winner Angelina Jolie (”Girl, Interrupted”). ”I don’t know if it’s divorced families or what it is, but he and I were each other’s everything, always, and we’ve been best friends,” gushed Jolie. ”He’s always been my strongest support, and he’s the funniest, sweetest person I know. He’s given me so much love and taken care of me, and it makes life great.” With siblings like that, who needs a boyfriend?

Most Likely to Be Banned From Covering the 2001 Oscars Tyra Banks. Dressed in what appeared to be the world’s ugliest bridesmaid dress, Tyra Banks tried to add an element of hip to the preshow proceedings, with disastrous results. Telling Ashley Judd she’s on par with an Oscar nominated film because her dress matches her eyeshadow and describing an ensemble as ”slammin”’ may work on MTV, but even Haley Joel Osment seemed more grown-up than this witless supermodel.

Most Gracious Winner Michael Caine. Caine, who spent most of his allotted time gushing over the competition, was candid as to why he came out on top for the Best Supporting Actor award for ”The Cider House Rules” ”I’m a survivor,” he shrugged. ”That’s why they gave it to me. Because I’m still here after all these years.” Caine said the decision to praise his fellow nominees wasn’t planned. ”When you see them on the enormous screen one after the other, it’s quite astonishing,” he said. ”The feeling I had was everyone was just as good as me, so why should one of us win? I thought this can’t go by without mentioning their performances, so I did.”

Most in Common With Jewel So what if the Alaskan folkie and her mom lived out of a van? Best Actress winner Hilary Swank (”Boys Don’t Cry”) pulled off the same stunt in a crappy old sedan. ”We got in our Oldsmobile with 75 bucks to our name, and we drove down to California from Washington State,” says Swank, who made the move to Los Angeles at 16. ”We lived out of our car until I got my first job on ‘Growing Pains.’ How about THOSE pains?” And we thought those American-made cars had plenty of leg room.

Most Bittersweet Moment As tears streamed down her husband, Chad Lowe’s, face (hey, boys really do cry), Hilary Swank thanked her director, her handlers, and just about everybody she ever met except for… her husband. Ouch. ”As you can imagine, it’s very surreal up there,” Swank admitted backstage, where she finally acknowledged her hubby as her ”everything.” Swank says she remembered her mistake just a moment too late. ”I was just starting to walk off when I went, Oh!” she said. ”I was trying to get back, but the music was on.” Since when has the music ever made anyone else shut up?

Goofiest Presenters Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore. Sure, Billy Crystal is a tough act to follow, but the giggling trio of newly minted Angels would have seemed dumb following Whoopi. Liu’s attempt at deadpan delivery was simply dead, while Diaz and Barrymore’s efforts to add some girlish glee to their lines smacked of a bad night on the WB. Let’s hope ”Charlie’s Angels” has more action than dialogue. Runner-up: A gum-smacking Clint Eastwood.

Worst Oscar Fashion In what was otherwise a disappointingly tasteful evening, there were at least a few gaffes to satisfy Joan Rivers wannabes everywere. Tom Cruise’s schoolboy tux with a stain-colored shirt was a miss, while Harmony Korine’s apparent decision not to bathe, shave, or comb his hair before the big night was less a sign of indie cred than a pending mental meltdown. And Erykah Badu, who looked earthy and exotic at the Grammys, bore an unfortunate resemblance to Gumby in her Crayola-green gown and turban.

Best Disappearing Act Isaac Hayes. Lost in a cloud of machine-generated smoke as his piano was wheeled onto the stage, Hayes was the one who really got the shaft.

Best Non-Bleep Robin Williams. ABC seemed prepared for at least a few naughty words to slip through the cracks with the show’s TV 14 DLV warning, but Williams managed to sidestep the issue in his rendition of ”Blame Canada” thanks to a strip of black tape and a turned back. It was a surprisingly classy delivery that made songwriters Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman’s loss to the vapid Phil Collins puffball ”You’ll Be in My Heart” even more disappointing.

Best Save Kevin Spacey. When the Best Actor Oscar winner darted out for a bathroom break prior to his award being announced, a staffer refused to let him back into the ceremony since the show had resumed taping. A flustered Spacey had to beg to get back into the theater before his name was called. He could have taken some pointers from Faye Dunaway. When told she couldn’t enter the theater, she simply shoved her drink into the staffer’s hand and breezed right by.

Best Ving Rhames Imitation These days it’s downright trendy to dedicate your award to Jack Lemmon, but Kevin Spacey had his reasons. ”My history with Jack Lemmon started when I was 13 years old and I went to a seminar at the Mark Taper Forum,” said Spacey. ”He talked to us and encouraged us, and about 11 years later I auditioned for a play he was in by Eugene O’Neill and played his son.” Lemmon’s nebbishy character in ”The Apartment” also became Spacey’s model for Lester Burnham. But Spacey isn’t necessarily handing over his golden guy. ”Let me get him on the phone and see if he has enough room on his shelf,” Spacey said.

Most Honest (and Creepiest) Speech Best Cinematography winner may have said too much when he asked if he could relate to the unlovable characters in ”American Beauty.” ”Sam Mendes told me to look into my own psyche and find out if I ever had any dark thoughts,” said Conrad L. Hall. ”And I thought about my 16-year-old daughter and some of her girlfriends, and realized that Kevin [Spacey’s character] and I had something in common. So I guess all humans are kind of dysfunctional.” Yeah, but most of them reserve the weird stuff for their therapists.

Most Honest Moment, Part 2 Pedro Almodóvar may have won for Best Foreign Film (”All About My Mother”), but he wasn’t all that happy about thanking the Academy. ”The rules for this category are very discriminatory,” he said, noting that films that don’t receive American distribution have little chance of winning. ”I think the campaign is very hard and very strange and very weird. I don’t understand why they do it this way. They have a good reason, I’m sure, but I think these conditions should change in the future.” The Spanish director added that a letter of complaint to the Academy is next on his to-do list. We’d hate to think what he would’ve done if he’d lost.

Best Proof That Oscar Is the Best Revenge Best Original Screenplay winner Alan Ball (”American Beauty”) attributed his win to ”karmic payback for four hellish years in television.” So much for that Lester in hell spin-off for HBO.

Best Makeover The ceremony itself. Producers Lili Fini and Richard D. Zanuck may have lost points for the truly odious ode to child actors and an overlong tribute to Oscar’s greatest songs, but the pair managed the impressive task of bringing the ceremony into the 21st century, if not under the four-hour mark. Peter Coyote proved an inspired choice as the announcer, and music codirector Don Was was able to cut through some of Burt Bacharach’s elevator-ready cheese with a funk and techno infusion that got winners hustling up to the podium. The spiffy Oscars-meets-disco set and blinking neon was almost as much fun to watch as Billy Crystal, who, with writer Bruce Vilanch, was able to mine fresh material from the lost Oscar fiasco despite Jay Leno’s best efforts to squeeze the topic dry earlier in the week.

Most Memorable Quote When asked backstage how it felt to hold his Oscar, Best Song winner Phil Collins (”Tarzan”) purred, ”I can get my hand around his legs very easily. It feels very good.” Can’t wait to see what the tabloids do with that one.

American Beauty

  • Movie
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  • 121 minutes
  • Sam Mendes