Backstage notes at the Academy Awards
Joel and Ethan Coen, Scott Rudin
The Coen brothers reprised their lopsided-personality act backstage — Joel spoke comfortably and at length, while Ethan appeared visibly flustered — but both agreed their work on “No Country for Old Men,” as with all their films, was a joint collaboration.
“We’ve always viewed movies the same way … There’s no real division of labor,” Joel said. “It’s a collaborative process from top to bottom.”
Asked about how the long awards season had been treating him, Ethan replied, “Oh boy … eeeh … I try not to think about it, it’s kind of a … oh, ugh … hmm …,” and shrugged.
Producer Rudin proved more forthcoming about his feelings on winning his first Oscar.
“It’s amazing, there’s nothing like it, and especially with these two guys,” he said, gesturing to each Coen brother at his side. “I think it’s the best movie we’ve been involved with, I loved it from the first moment I saw it, and I think it’s a total tribute to Joel and Ethan. So, it’s thrilling.”
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“I’m very much looking forward to all the milkshakes I can drink for the next 25 years or so,” said Day-Lewis, commenting on the parody phenomenon that had sprung up around his most memorable line in “There Will Be Blood.”
“I think it’s fantastic. … There’s a long tradition, in fact it’s an art form — we call it slagging in Ireland, taking the piss in England. If you can offer up something that they can slag you for, they’re always grateful for that.”
Day-Lewis also explained his reasons for kissing fellow nominee George Clooney after hearing his name announced.
“George has been there for me,” he said, adding, “I kissed my wife, and in the interests of parity, I kissed George.”
Though mild-mannered as ever, Day-Lewis did display some Daniel Plainview-style ferocity when asked what he did to unwind in his spare time.
“The great thing is, I don’t have to talk about that, I can just do it,” he said. “Why? Because it’s none of your f-ing business, that’s why!”
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Supporting actor winner Bardem praised his fellow nominees, saying “This is a lottery, it doesn’t mean I’m better than the rest at all. The Spaniard talked about the support he got from his mother, thesp Pilar Bardem, during this award season.
“My mother said, ‘I’m going to try to take a plane and get there on time, just make sure somebody gets there to help me through immigration,’ ” said the “No Country for Old Men” thesp. “She sat down with me today and said ‘I’m nervous,’ and I said Why? ‘They’re not going to give you anything.’ ”
“She knows everything about all this, the ups, the down, the dark, the light. She’s a great companion through all this and she knows that the real success is to get a job.”
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No less breathless than she was during her acceptance speech, “La Vie en rose” star Cotillard likened her Oscar-winning experience to an uncontainable explosion.
“It feels so good. I’m totally overwhelmed with joy and sparkles and fireworks, and everything which goes like ‘BAM! BAM! BAM!’ (It’s as if) I just ate all those things, and it’s happening right here, right now,” she said. “It’s so unexpected, it’s surreal, but I love it, I love it.”
The French actress rattled off a list of thesps who had inspired her: Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette and Peter Sellers (“I wanted to marry him when I was a child”).
Cotillard ended her time backstage by singing a few bars from the Edith Piaf tune “Padam Padam” — the song she said best encapsulated her feelings at that moment — and the press room burst into applause.
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“I just had a reverse ‘Zoolander’ moment, where I think I heard someone else’s name and suddenly, slooooooooowly heard my own,” Swinton said of being announced as the supporting actress winner for “Michael Clayton.” “I’m still recovering from that moment. I have absolutely no idea what happened after that. You could tell me my dress fell off and I’d believe you.
“I kind of thought Ruby Dee would win, but frankly, anyone but myself,” she added.
Swinton said she wasn’t worried about a possible SAG strike: “I’m worried that there may be a cause to strike. Striking’s the thing we can do if conditions aren’t right. I feel like recent events might have made a strike unlikely, but there’s always that possibility. I have the very good fortune of being European, so I have other planets to work on.”
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Asked whether she thought the writers strike affected the Oscarcast, original screenplay winner Cody said “Tonight’s show, I’m not sure I saw it. I was into my own world of anxiety and stomach pain,”
The “Juno” scribe corrected descriptions of her former job as “exotic dancer.”
“I was not a dancer. I can’t dance,” she said, which leaves “stripper” as the correct job description. “If I had the money, I would pay off people in the journalism world to not mention it again,” she joked, adding that if her own life story were made into a script, she would have to write it. “It would be a silly movie because nobody would believe it.”
As for other artists out there working at strange odd jobs, she said “To me those are the greatest artists in the world, because they’re doing art for art’s sake.”
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“I feel extremely proud to be Italian,” said “Atonement” composer Marianelli, citing the night’s earlier victories for “Sweeney Todd’s” Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo. “I’m feeling very proud to be in the same place and the same time as Dante.”
Marianelli said the score’s inventive use of typewriter keys was the product of a dare that went through “several discussions and several protests” before it came to fruition.
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Alex Gibney and Eva Orney
“Taxi to the Dark Side” producer Orney used her moment backstage to thank the man beside her, director-producer Gibney, “who had the amazing tenacity in making this film,” she said.
Gibney was somewhat more reserved, replying dryly to a question about going back to helming musicvideos after having won acclaim — and now an Oscar — for his documentary features.
“Yeah, it’s back to the romantic comedies. It’s a must now,” he said.
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Wade, director/producer/cinema-tographer of winning short docu “Freeheld,” remembered that she asked her husband “to juggle two kids and a full time job” while she went to live with the subjects of her film.
Wade’s style often involves living with her subjects, and she offered some thoughts for aspiring documentarians: “It’s a marriage. You look that subject matter in the face and say for better or worse, for sickness and in health. You live eat and breathe the subject matter for years, it becomes one of your most valued relationships.”
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Cinematography winner Elswit was self-effacing backstage, again crediting production designer Jack Fisk for his location sets. Elswit called Fisk “brilliant” and said “he did an incredible job.”
Of his win, he said “It feels great, (but) it’s wacky. Awards are silly in that sense; all the people nominated are so extraordinary. Roger Deakins has seven nominations and no wins. It’s just luck.”
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Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
A surprise run-in with last year’s song winner, Melissa Etheridge, just a few days before Oscar night proved to be a good-luck charm for “Once’s” Hansard and Irglova.
“We were in a restaurant and we sat down, and we saw, oh my god, that’s Melissa Etheridge, she won last year!” Hansard said. “I asked (her), ‘Can I hold the hand that won last year?’ It was a very amazing moment for us.”
Hansard said he’d also gotten a congratulatory text message from a famous countryman.”
“Getting a text from Bono is one of the biggest things that can happen to an Irishman,” he said, calling the U2 frontman “the chieftain of our country.”
Irglova said she hoped “Once,” in its modest way, did its part to restore some art to the art form.
“We set out on a trip to make something that was true to us, and felt that we could share with a lot of people,” she said. “Nowadays a lot of the films that are being made for different reasons than art. … Art has been compromised by how much money a film is expected to gross.”
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“The Counterfeiters” director Ruzowitsky wouldn’t comment on the controversy over the high-profile omissions from this year’s foreign-language film category.
“Forgive me … it’s more important to be nominated than to worry about those who were not nominated,” the helmer said with a smile.
Ruzowitsky said he was excited to accept Austria’s first victory in this category.
“Austria’s usually all about opera and classical music and theater … they’re not very enthusiastic about their movies,” he said. “I hope very much that this award will also help us Austrian filmmakers … and put some more pressure on the politicians to support the film industry, as well.”
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The 98-year-old honorary Oscar honoree Boyle admitted that he misses the sense of community of Hollywood in his younger days. “People seemed to be working together more in those days. They’re more separate today, and that’s what I regret.”
Looking at today’s digital-aided art direction, he said he doesn’t really keep up with it. “I am an absolute dummy with a computer. I’ve come from the old studio system of hands-on work.” He did say, though, that he would like to see “more discipline” in the making of films today.
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Rouse, winner for film editing for “The Bourne Ultimatum,” remembered his father, Russell Rouse, a 1959 Oscar winner for the story of “Pillow Talk.”
“My father was the biggest inspiration to me” Rouse said. “First and foremost he taught me about story. I try to tell the story effectively.”
Of the dizzying quick-cutting style of “Bourne,” Rouse said, “I just think it’s a style we initiated in ‘Bourne Identity’ and ‘Supremacy’ and just expanded upon. Hopefully it’s a style that’s kinetic, supports the Bourne character and looks pretty cool.”
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Kirk Francis, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Two of the three winners for sound mixing on “The Bourne Ultimatium,” Scott Millan and David Parker, were Oscar vets, and they beamed at the win by their “Oscar virgin” co-nominee Francis.
Francis was unfazed, though, saying “I had two BAFTAs before so I was prepped by my friends across the pond.” He even came prepared with a tiny Hawaiian lei to put around his statuette.
Sound editors Hallberg and Baker Landers had practiced their acceptance, but blanked at the podum. Repeat winner Hallberg said “everything froze” when went up to accept, while first- time winner Baker Landers teased Hallberg but admitted, “It’s very surreal when you’re up there.”
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Welchman, producer of winning animated short “Peter and the Wolf,” said, “I was actually just grinning from ear to ear,” at the podium onstage. “It felt just exciting. I thought it was going to be scary, but it was exciting.”
Welchman and helmer Suzie Templeton have been working on the stop-motion pic for five years and Welchman says he’s still working on it, but has been gratified by the reception he’s received from toon pros. “It was a real buzz to have people like (Pixar’s) Ed Catmull and Brad Bird come up to us and say they’ve seen the film and wish us the very best.”
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Francesca Lo Schiavo
The press room must have looked pretty familiar to “Sweeney Todd’s” Dante Ferretti and Lo Schiavo, who won the art direction Oscar three years ago for their work on “The Aviator.”
“Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic,” Lo Schiavo said of their experience working with helmer Tim Burton. “He opened my mind, he’s (such) a great artist. Really, working with him, it was an award.”
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Ben Morris and Michael Fink
Morris of “The Golden Compass admitted to being surprised at the film’s victory for special effects, and offered that “Compass” might have won because “There was a lot of spectacle in the other films and there’s a lot of delicate performance and intimacy in this film, and I think that stood out.”
Chief vfx supervisor Fink echoed that thought, saying that amidst all the fantasy elements in the film, “The dialogue scenes meant everything to me.”
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Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
The “La Vie en rose” makeup team worked as well together backstage as they did on the film: Makeup artist Lavergne fielded questions in French, while key hairstylist Archibald replied in English.
“Sometimes the language was a bit of a barrier; my French is very poor,” Archibald said. “It was a challenge, and a wonderful challenge.”
Archibald added that actress Marion Cotillard was perfectly willing to shave her eyebrows in her quest to become Gallic chanteuse Edith Piaf.
“There was no problem. She was up for it; she wanted to look as good as possible. It was kind of an obvious thing to do.”
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In his acceptance speech, “Ratatouille” helmer Bird thanked the junior high school guidance counselor who tried to talk him out of a career in movies. Backstage he emphasized that that conversation really did help him. “It seemed impossible,” Bird said, “and life has a way of smacking you down. If you get up enough times, things happen.”
A winner for his second animated feature in a row, Bird said getting an Oscar for “Ratatouille” was “no less sweet” than his win for “The Incredibles.”
But Bird is moving to live action for his next film, “1906,” about the San Francisco earthquake. He said San Francisco of that time was “a very volatile mix of great things and then you throw an earthquake in there. That goes great with popcorn.”
But will Bird ever be back competing for toon honors? “I want to make more animated films. So I hope so.”
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Designing costumes for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” Byrne said she and helmer Shekhar Kapur were interested in “what’s relevant to an audience today, as opposed to being historically over-accurate.”
“Shekhar’s not interested in historical accuracy,” said Byrne, also nominated for her work on 1998’s “Elizabeth.” “(He would talk) about the emotion of a character or the emotion of a story. In this film, we wanted to tell the story of Elizabeth’s journey to immortality.”