Steve Martin nixed Saddam joke at Oscars -- He and the producers had contemplated a zinger directed at the Iraqi dictator

By Brian Hiatt
Updated March 24, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Steve Martin: Mike Blake/Reuters/Newscom

Steve Martin had a Saddam Hussein joke ready to go for the Oscars — but decided against using it. Host Martin was going to assume the Iraqi leader was watching the Academy Awards, telling him, ”I hope your connection goes out just before we announce best picture,” according to the L.A. Times. The joke was thrown out by Martin and Oscar writers, presumably for reasons of taste.

That omission was not the only behind-the-scenes drama Sunday night. Both Julia Roberts and Barbra Streisand demanded rewrites of their presentation speeches (Roberts declared at the last minute that she didn’t want to read her speech at all, forcing writers to find a compromise), according to the Times. Also, producers tried to cut off Michael Moore’s anti-Bush speech, with director Louis Horvitz yelling ”Music, music!” toward its conclusion, the Times reported.

Among those booing Moore’s speech were the production’s stagehands, one of whom angrily confronted the filmmaker backstage, according to the Times. And another stagehand was responsible for Martin’s odd joke about throwing a telephone on stage earlier in the evening — the worker had been fixing a prop above the stage, and his walkie-talkie fell near Martin during his monologue, according to the Times.