Celebrity reactions from behind the scenes

Kate Winslet

“It’s just dawning on me now that I’ve won an Oscar,” said the actress winner, nearly hyperventilating. “It’s just starting to sink in. Oh my God.”

She dashed from the stage to embrace a reporter who’s known her since she was teen thesp from small-town England, then told him how winning felt “unreal.”

“My mom won a picked onion competition in her local pub before Christmas and that was a big deal. They had her picture in the paper. Reading Evening Post? There’s your next Winslet picture,” she said, holding up her statuette. “And as someone who’s been nominated before, I can tell you winning is really a lot better than losing. Really a lot better.”

* * *

Sean Penn

After exchanging a quick kiss with actress winner Kate Winslet, the two-time Oscar winner delivered characteristically sober, serious remarks — some of which were directed at the hateful sign-wavers outside the Kodak Theater.

“I’d tell ’em to turn in their hate card and find their better self … It’s very sad in a way, because it’s a demonstration of such cowardice, emotional cowardice, to be so afraid of extending the same rights to your fellow man as you would want for yourself.”

Penn, who obliquely referenced President Obama in his acceptance speech, went into greater detail backstage.

“We know that his public position, in terms of the specific issue of gay marriage, has not been, let’s say, officially supportive. I would like to believe that’s a political stand right now, and not necessarily a future one and a felt one,” he said. “I don’t think any of us and, in particular, our president, will long be able to take that position. He’ll adapt.”

Penn also extended his tribute to fellow nominee Mickey Rourke.

“Everyone in this room has to make a comeback every day. Life’s tough. What I think is sensational about (Mickey) is that he’s simply one of the great poetic talents in acting.”

* * *

Danny Boyle and Christian Colson

Even after winning the directing Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire,” helmer Boyle spoke passionately of his low-budget roots and said it was important for studios to nuture small, independent films.

“You see Heath Ledger’s work acknowledged in ‘The Dark Knight,’ and it is extraordinary work. But like virtually everybody, Heath started small, he started in small films. Everybody does, and we’ve got to protect them. The first film I made cost a million pounds, and that’s where you learn your craft. And you don’t know what you’re doing — and I’m a big fan of keeping it that way.”

“Even the studios will take note that we made this for 7 million pounds,” said producer Colson. “It’s gonna cross $100 million in the U.S. Tuesday or Wednesday. That’s good business for them.”

Asked about the rumors that stars Dev Patel and Freida Pinto were an item, Boyle said, “I have no idea. I don’t want to add to it or take away from it.”

To which Colson added, “Actually, I know, and it’s not true.”

Boyle also took the opportunity to quote the poet W.H. Auden: “He talks in his poem about putting jukeboxes on the moon, and that’s what tonight feels like.”

* * *

Heath Ledger

Ledger’s family appeared backstage looking calm, composed and quietly moved. His sister, Kate, said she had suspected that his performance as the Joker in “The Dark Knight” would be recognized by the Academy.

“When he came home at Christmas a year ago — he had been sending me shots and bits and pieces from the film, and he hadn’t seen it, I hadn’t seen it. No one had really seen it. And I said, ‘I had a feeling this is it for you, you’re going to get a nomination from the Academy.’ And he just looked at me and smiled, like he knew.”

Ledger’s mother, Sally, added, “Heath was never one to be over-the-top with anything, but I think he would be really quietly pleased that it’s being recognized by his peers and the industry.”

Ledger’s father, Kim, said the statuette will go to the actor’s daughter, Matilda, when she turns 18.

“I think Michelle (Williams) keeps Matilda closeted in a nice way, which I think is a good thing,” said Ledger’s father, Kim. “Michelle will make the decisions here, when it’s appropriate to celebrate this kind of thing, when she’ll be at an age when she can celebrate it.”

Andrew Stanton

The “Wall-E” helmer, whose pic took home the Oscar for animated feature, expressed his amazement that audiences responded en masse to “the most unique, personal film I could’ve made. I really expected it to speak to a minority, not a majority.”

Stanton said he felt some viewers focused too much on the film’s ecological themes.

“I use those devices to focus on the biggest issue, which is people caring about one another, people connecting with one another — or just you acknowledging your neighbor next to you, as opposed to being blocked by a cell phone.”

* * *

Dustin Lance Black

An emotional Black called winning for original screenplay “sort of an out-of-body thing…I don’t believe it yet. Maybe when I see my mom in a few minutes.”

Black said he hoped that his plea from the podium for gay acceptance and rights would send a message to young gay viewers: “I just hope it makes you feel less alone.”

Black said he didn’t have his speech planned in full. “My whole thing was just to pay it forward,” he said, choking up. “Harvey (Milk) gave me his story and it saved my life. My whole thing was to tell those kids out there that they’ll be alright.”

* * *

Penelope Cruz

The supporting actress winner thanked both “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” director Woody Allen and Isabel Coixet, helmer of her other 2008 release, “Elegy.”

“I’m grateful to those two directors for giving me the material,” she said, adding that the women she played “could not be farther from my own personality.”

Cruz acknowledged that before her recent success, she had to weather a lot of criticism, particularly of her Spanish-accented English.

“You have to keep climbing mountains, and sometimes there are things that it’s better not to listen to,” she said. “In this room, how many accents are there here? We are all mixed together, more and more everyday, and that has to be represented in cinema. I’m happy that finally, that door seems to be more open.”

* * *

Simon Beaufoy

The adapted screenplay winner said he was inspired by India’s “uncynical” approach to romance.

“I thought it was so wonderful. It thought if I could only put that into a western film,” Beaufoy said. “I thought we’d lost that in our cinema. I thought we’d transferred it to superhero movies. That’s where the melodrama is in our cinema. I thought that you could do that in a live-action film that’s not about superheroes.”

Beaufoy said that after months as part of the “Slumdog” awards-and-promotions tour, it would be hard to say goodbye to everyone.

“We’ve spent the last four months together one way or another every week. And the whole film was made in a very collaborative way. So you feel like you’re part of family and you feel like you have a responsibility to that family. It’s going to be strange for that to all dissipate. But we can’t stay together forever. The circus moves on.”

* * *

Kunio Kato

The animated-short winner was as composed backstage as he was at the podium, except when he was asked about his favorite moment of the evening — besides winning. “Meeting Mr. Jack Black was the most exciting thing,” he said through an interpreter. “I always wanted to be as funny as he is.”

* * *

Resul Pookutty

The sound mixing winner, the first Indian technician ever nominated for Oscar, called his statuette “an absolute glory for me and my country.”

He expanded on his mention of the word “Om” in his acceptance to say, “In our tradition we believe Om is an experience that encompasses the experience of the universe. You can hear all the pain of living just by saying the word ‘Om.’ That relates to me on a very personal level, being a sound person.”

* * *

Eric Barba

The “Benjamin Button” visual effects supervisor said that even though the film had broken new ground, they weren’t sure voters would recognize it. “It’s been said the work was done too well. You couldn’t tell where our work stopped and Brad took over. Even our competitors couldn’t tell. If they couldn’t, how could the voters?”

He said he knew they’d had a breakthrough when the SAG Awards showed a clip of their work to show Brad Pitt’s performance. “(That meant) not only was our work accepted but Brad’s performance was coming across.”

Going forward, he said, he hopes other long-gestating projects like “Button” will get into production, “now that we’ve done a photo-real human. And I think that’s already happening.”

* * *

Richard King

While he admitted that he wished director Christopher Nolan had been nominated, “The Dark Knight” sound designer/supervising sound editor King said winning an Oscar (his second, after 2003’s “Master and Commander”) remained “an amazing experience.

“This is the second time I’ve won, and the third time I’ve been to the Oscars. It never gets old. It’s a remarkable experience for a kid from Florida who just wanted to be in the movie business.”

* * *

Yojiro Takita

The “Departures” helmer said he was gratified because, “It’s always been the classical samurai type movies that have won Oscars and this is the first Oscar winner to portray modern Japan.”

In fact, Takita admitted, he expected to hear “Waltz with Bashir” read out as foreign-language film winner, not his own “Departures.” “I didn’t believe it. It was unbelievable,” he said of the moment.

* * *

James Marsh and Simon Chinn

Marsh, the “Man on Wire” helmer, said, “I think it’s just a very beautiful fairy tale that happens to be true,” adding that it helped that “it’s about something that’s illegal and subversive.”

The pair brought the documentary feature’s subject, wire-walker Philippe Petit, backstage with them. Petit said he’s not done taking chances. “It’s in my veins, I have to keep walking,” he said. “I’m going to walk in NYC in the fall, to a library, I won’t tell you which one. It’s a walk for literacy to inspire kids to read.”

* * *

Chris Dickens

The “Slumdog Millionaire” editor said he had his work cut out for him in making the film’s intricate flashback structure cohere.

“There were so many different storylines going on, and in its original form, it just felt a little lumpy and long. The challenge was to get it to fit together neatly and seamlessly, and also to get it down to a reasonable length.”

Dickens had no idea at the time that the film would eventually become so popular with the Academy and other awards-givers.

“A couple months ago, I suppose from about the end of November, we’d already started feeling that people loved the film. I thought maybe the writer or director would get a few awards. But I never imagined we’d have so many.”

* * *

Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo

“Benjamin Button” set decorator Zolfo said of his art direction Oscar, “You never expected it to happen. As everyone says, just to be nominated is amazing. For the rest of your career, you can relax about things.”

Burt, who thanked helmer David Fincher from the podium, said “I’m a perfectionist too. What he demands from us is what we demand from ourselves. We have our bar set as well, so it turns out to be a very complimentary relationship. He knows what his movie is about and he knows how he wants to work it.”

And, Zolfo added, “He’s really funny.”

* * *

Michael O’Connor

The costume designer said he was worried that “The Duchess,” set in 18th-century London, was a bit isolated among the other nominees — which he had nothing but praise for.

“It’s so good to see the 1970s (in ‘Milk’) and if you look at ‘Revolutionary Road,’ and see how well those costumes are done, they’re so beautiful,” he said. “And then you’ve got that massive range in ‘Benjamin Button’ and those beautiful costumes in ‘Australia.’

“I didn’t think I was going to win, I thought other films would win,” he said. “The truth is, you don’t realize you’re gonna get this, ever.”

* * *

Anthony Dod Mantle

The cinematography winner said he brought some of the skills he’d learned as a documentary d.p. to “Slumdog.”

“You have to see what’s going on in a short space of time and grab it. Maybe my background from documentary is more relevant.” The film was made fast, he said, with little prep. “My main brief was to learn how to run with the boys, run with them at a certain height and certain pace. And that was no small thing in the slums of Mumbai.”

* * *

Jochen Alexander Freydank

The winner for live-action short said that as long as there are Holocaust deniers, there’s a place in the world for stories like his “Toyland.”

“As long as you tell it from a personal angle and it has emotion in it, and it has a personal angle, we still need movies like this. It has to be an emotional story, and I think it was.”

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0