Oscars 2011: Backstage with Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, Melissa Leo, Christian Bale, and more
Image Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty ImagesThe Academy Awards press room is a fascinating microcosm of the movie industry, and the press that covers it. Having just been tasked with the challenge of delivering a succinct acceptance speech in front of a bazillion people, the Oscar winners are then whisked backstage and bombarded with questions. Being the professionals that they are, they generally handle these queries with ease.
Then you have the 300 or 400 press members in the room — a vibrant spectrum of media representing multiple countries, varying levels of experience (college-newspaper reporters rub elbows with esteemed veterans), and different interests. There are always one or two reporters who ask a question so groan-inducing that, well, most of the room groans. But for the most part, it was a pleasant and insightful affair, during which Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Melissa Leo, Christian Bale, and others were given the opportunity to reflect on their accomplishments and reiterate their gratitude. Here’s the best of who said what:
Colin Firth: The King’s Speech star is flat-out against the toned-down PG-13 version of the film that the Weinstein Company is planning to release, presumably with fewer curse words. “I don’t support it,” Firth stated. “In the context of this film, [the profanity] could not be more edifying, more appropriate. It’s not vicious. It’s about a man trying to free himself through the use of forbidden words, and he’s so coy about it. I still haven’t met the person who would object to it. So I think the film should stand as it is.”
As for Firth’s post-Oscar plans? “I think I’m going to cook a lot,” he said. “I don’t think I’m particularly good at it, but I’m going to inflict my cooking on anybody within range. I tend to find that’s a very good way to decompress. But I’ll probably be the only one eating it.”
Natalie Portman: Many questions were directed toward the Black Swan actress’ pregnancy. No, she’s doesn’t know the gender of her child (or is at least not telling us). No, she’s not going to name the child Oscar. And, yes, the baby was kicking, but only during the song portions of the ceremony. I did appreciate Portman’s response, though, to what she’d tell her child-to-be about this whole Oscar experience. “I think I will just thank them,” said Portman. “[Pregnancy] has sort of been a protection against all of the hoopla, and the part that keeps you centered. [It reminds you] what is actually important in the midst of a lot of shiny stuff that is more superficial.”
Melissa Leo: The supporting actress winner was quickly asked about dropping the Oscars’ first f-bomb during her acceptance speech, when she said, “When I watched Kate [Winslet] two years ago, it looked so much [expletive] easier.” Backstage, The Fighter actress was apologetic for using the word. “I really don’t mean to offend, and [it was] probably a very inappropriate place to use that particular word,” said Leo. “There’s a great deal of the English language that is in my vernacular.”
And, now that she won, did Leo feel vindicated about her controversial Oscar campaign ad? “There’s nothing to vindicate, and there was no campaign,” said Leo. “It was a photograph in a magazine. I wanted a pretty photograph in a magazine — that’s all it was.”
Christian Bale: The supporting actor winner for The Fighter accidentally missed costar Melissa Leo’s acceptance speech. “I found myself out in the bar with [Dicky Eklund, the real-life trainer Bale played] and my wife, thinking that it was like the other awards where you just walk on in and go out,” Bale explained. “I unfortunately missed Melissa’s acceptance speech because they wouldn’t let me in. I missed the f-bomb. But, you know, I’ve laid down many of them myself before, so I think I know what it was all about.”
Also, one reporter ludicrously found a way to ask Bale about Charlie Sheen, since Bale’s character, Dicky, had a “chemically enhanced meltdown.” Luckily for Bale, he had the perfect alibi to avoid answering the question. “I’ve been in China [filming Zhang Yimou’s next film],” said Bale. “Just no idea [about Sheen].” And after the Yimou film (The 13 Women of Nanjing) is finished, Bale will immediately start focusing on The Dark Knight Rises.
David Seidler: The 73-year-old writer of The King’s Speech, himself a former stutterer, has been genuinely moved by the response to the film and its impact on other stutterers. “I’ve been flooded with the most wonderful e-mails, phone calls, and text messages from my fellow stutterers,” said Seidler. He then shared one particular anecdote: “A speech therapist spoke to me a few days ago, [and said] that one of her clients, a teenage girl, had come in and been terribly bullied for being a stutterer. And what do most stutterers do when we’re bullied? We keep quiet because how can we talk back? That’s the very thing they tease us about. But this girl was determined not to take it, and the therapist said [to her], ‘What made the difference?’ And she said, ‘Because I have a voice.'”
Lee Unkrich: The Toy Story 3 director revealed that the film’s poignant ending was partly inspired by the final moments he spent with his dying grandmother. “She would say, ‘I am going to live to see you get an Oscar,’ and unfortunately, that never happened,” said Unkrich. “There’s a moment in Toy Story 3 that’s very inspired by her. When I was making the first Toy Story, which I edited, she got cancer, and I rushed home to see her because it was clear she was not going to be around long. There was a moment where I looked at her for the very last time, and I knew that that was the last time I was seeing my grandmother alive, and I took a mental snapshot of that moment before I turned away and left.”
Unkrich continued: “When we were making Toy Story 3, there’s a moment at the end of the film where Andy gets back in his car, and he looks back at his toys one last time before he drives off to college. I told this story to my animators and [to screenwriter] Michael Arndt, and I would like to think in my heart that the moment is infused with just a deeper level of emotion because I told that story.”
Randy Newman: The singer-songwriter, who won best original song for Toy Story 3‘s “We Belong Together,” can always be counted on for his biting honesty. When asked for his advice on how to break into the music industry, Newman retorted, “Who would want to break into the music industry? It’s like a bank that’s already been robbed.”
Luke Matheny: How many text messages does one get immediately after winning an Oscar? For Matheny, the New York University graduate student who directed the best live-action short film God of Love, the answer is 73. Plus 50 unread e-mails. And don’t even begin to think about the state of his Facebook profile.