Behind the Scenes

Seen and heard backstage at the Shrine

Robin Williams, thrice denied an Oscar, was ebullient and manic backstage after winning best supporting actor for “Good Will Hunting.”

“I’d been nominated three times before and lost. Each time I had about the same chance of winning as the Jamaican bobsledding team,” Williams said, breaking into an auctioneer mode as he called out the numbers of journalists who wanted to ask questions.

But Williams was quite serious about the roles by comedians like Peter Sellers in years past and Billy Connolly this year that have been overlooked by Oscar voters. “Maybe it’s because we’re unusual people. We scare you,” he said.

Asked if he would have given himself the Oscar given the serious competition he faced, he said, “Yes, this has been an insane wild night and now I have to go change pants, but you understand that.”

* * *

Best actress winner Helen Hunt confirmed that she would indeed be coming back for another year of the hit NBC series “Mad About You.”

On the film front however, no project is imminent, although she said she has three movies in development under her nascent deal at Sony Pictures — one with a “magnificent director” she wouldn’t identify.

Hunt was the sole American in a foreign-dominated best actress field. The last time this occurred was when Jane Fonda was nominated for “Klute” in 1971, and she was a winner, too.

Hunt said that a “blacklist” had existed between television and film, which prevented actors from crossing over from TV to film as she has done. But the actress said, “That doesn’t exist anymore. The work is the work is the work.”

* * *

A modest Anne Dudley beat out established Hollywood composers such as Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman and James Newton Howard for the original music or comedy score Oscar, her first. “When my agent originally phoned me with this script I thought that he was scraping the barrel a bit here,” said Dudley of the film’s humble beginnings.

According to “The Full Monty” helmer Peter Cattaneo, the joke on the set of the pic, which has since grossed more than $200 mil, was that it would go straight to video.

But Dudley said the script’s genuine comedy and its belief in its own characters inspired her. “This is a film that affects everybody,” she said. “It’s also a film that says a lot about comradeship and friendship and about (working-class guys) coming up from the bottom.”

It was not an easy job, however, to integrate incidental music into a film that was strong with 1970s disco music, such as Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff.” “The songs have a strong character and a brassy feel, so my score was based around those brassy tunes,” Dudley said.

* * *

With the Oscar for “Men in Black,” Rick Baker has won his fifth Academy Award for best achievement in makeup. He won his latest along with David LeRoy Anderson. The significance of this fifth one? “It means I finally made it,” Baker says, though he admitted, “I thought I was going to lose to ‘Titanic.’ ”

* * *

Chris Tashima and Chris Donahue, who produced and directed Oscar-winner “Visas and Virtue,” made their short film sound like a big-budget studio project with more than 620 people involved with the pic, of which 200 were crew members.

The short started as a stage play and the pair said, “It’s been a tight group ever since it was a stage play. There was a family involvement to the crew.”

* * *

“Titanic” crew Robert Legato, Mark Lasoff, Thomas Fisher and Michael Kanfer, of Digital Domain, picked up the visual effects Oscar. Even they were impressed with the scene in which the ship breaks in half, which they agreed was the most difficult to film.

“It looks like a simple thing,” said one. “But it was fascinating to watch.”

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