Backstage with the Oscar winners: Morgan, Clint, Cate, Jamie, and others toast their victories, gloat, and display their good-luck charms

By Gary Susman
Updated February 26, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
Morgan Freeman, Oscars 2005
Credit: Morgan Freeman: Reed Saxon/AP

Meeting the press backstage at the Academy Awards, the stars allowed themselves to cut loose a little. Free from the censor’s panic button, host Chris Rock finally uttered the curse words he’d been holding back during the Oscar telecast. He quoted the Raging Bull-style pep talk he had given himself before the show: ”I know my lines, let’s bring it. . . . Let’s do this s—, all right. . . . It’s time to bring it, motherf—–, bring it.” Asked what he would do now that the show was over, he said, ”I’ll do some drugs.”

Talking about the victories of Morgan Freeman (Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby) and Jamie Foxx (Best Actor for Ray), Rock said, ”It always feels good to see some color in the room that don’t have mops.” On the same subject, Freeman said, ”It means that Hollywood is continuing to make history. Life goes on. Things change. They never stay the same. So we’re evolving with the rest of the world.”

As for his own win after three previous nominations, Freeman said, ”After Driving Miss Daisy, I became philosophical about the Oscar. It occurred to me that winning the nomination is probably the height of it. It’s about as far as you can really reasonably go. And after that, it’s pretty arbitrary, you know, because, I mean, how can any of us be best? Who can? But when they call your name, all of that goes out the window.”

”It’s fun to win,” said Sideways filmmaker Alexander Payne, who shared the Adapted Screenplay prize with writing partner Jim Taylor. ”I’m so mindful we both have our comrades from film school who haven’t had the chances we’ve had, who haven’t had the breaks we’ve had. We’re so lucky to get something made and get it distributed decently. . . . But, in general, to pick out the best in the arts is a little antithetical to how I feel.” As for what wine the two would be drinking to celebrate the victory of their vineyard comedy, Taylor said, ”Tequila.”

Cate Blanchett, Best Supporting Actress winner for The Aviator, also downplayed the competitive aspect of the evening. Speaking of her fellow nominees, she said, ”I think it’s fun to go through it with all these girls. You would be surprised about the lack of competition. I think that’s all made up by the press.” Still, when asked if her win would turn her into a diva, she quipped, ”Absolutely, you a–hole. . . . Just you wait.”

Brad Bird, writer and director of the Best Animated Feature, The Incredibles, channeled superhero fashionista Edna Mode, whom he voiced in the film. Discussing the Oscar fashions, Brad/Edna said, ”Some people look fabulous on the red carpet, and some people would be better off wearing the red carpet.”

One theme of the evening was the triumph of the senior set — Freeman, Clint Eastwood (Best Director and Best Picture winner for Million Dollar Baby), and honorary winner Sidney Lumet (who’s currently shooting the courtroom drama Jackie Dee). So did the AARPers’ victories signify a trend? ”Yeah,” said Eastwood, ”we’re taking over.” He added a request that film producers hiring directors and actors ”keep the older crowd in mind.”

Recalled Freeman, ”I started out, at the age of about 15, to be a movie actor. I went into the Air Force to be a fighter pilot, but that lasted 20 minutes once I got in there. No, I was always trying to be a movie actor. This isn’t serendipity, in terms of being here. This is the fight I’ve been fighting all my life.”

A number of winners had good-luck charms with them. Freeman carried a silver dollar coin in a velvet box. Eastwood carried ”Flat Stanley,” a paper cutout that he said was part of his daughter’s school project. Blanchett, who kept one of Katharine Hepburn’s gloves in a handbag during the Aviator shoot, brought a full champagne flute backstage, saying, ”I’ve been looking forward to [drinking] this all evening.” And Jamie Foxx brought his daughter, Corinne, who helped keep him from getting a swelled ego. ”She?s 11,” he said, ”and she said, ‘Dad, after this, can we go to the big awards?’ — which are the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.”