The acceptance speeches are only just the beginning of what tonight’s winners have to say about their new statues.
A breezy and delighted Jared Leto made friends for life backstage as he passed his statuette around the front row. “I bet this is a first, the first winner to give his Oscar away for an orgy in the press room,” he quipped.
Asked about his emotional tribute to his family, he said “This is the best thing about winning this award, being able get on stage and thank people who are important to you. I was really proud to bring my mother tonight and my brother tonight, the most important people in my life, and be able to thank them in such a unique and grand way.
But he added: “At one point during my speech I found myself talking to DeNiro, as if the room wasn’t intimidating enough. Bad choice. So I went back to my mom.”
After Leto praised “Dallas Buyers Club’s” hair & makeup team for their hard work and for performing miracles on a tiny budget, winners Adruitha Lee (hair) and Robin Mathews (makeup) demurred.
“We didn’t have much choice,” said Mathews. Mathews had $250, Lee had $75. But Lee said, “The transformation they had already made, they gave us the freedom to continue on with that. They were committed and we were too.”
Lee said she had to go back to tricks from the silent era to achieve her effects, including putting grits and cornmeal on the actors’ faces. But somehow, it all worked. “I’ve devoted my life to my career,” said Lee, “and when anybody asks me if I want to get married and have children, I’ll say ‘No, I have an Oscar.’”
“Great Gatsby” costume design winner Catherine Martin, wife of helmer Baz Luhrmann, saluted her team backstage, noting they’ve been together since before “Moulin Rouge.”
“We forgot it was our third nomination,” said Martin. “I always think it’s funny. I often walk into the room and think, ‘Oh God, isn’t my crew getting old? And then I realize, I’m old, too.'”
Later Martin also won for production design — her fourth win. Asked about having the most Oscars of any Australian, she said “I am speechless. I don’t know how I feel about it, other than very happy. It’s a very strange and surreal feeling.”
“What (these awards) represent is the hard work of nearly 1,200 people. What is really nice is that when those people go to get their next job, they can say this won an Oscar.”
Jennifer Lee rushed to Los Angeles to join Disney and work on the script for “Wreck-It Ralph,” stayed on for long-gestating “Frozen,” and now has an Oscar. “I think I will understand it a few months from now…I’m still completely overwhelmed,” she said.
Of her fellow animated feature winners, Chris Buck and Peter Del Vecho, Lee said, “Working with these guys has been heaven,” adding she’d take some time off after opening “Frozen” in Japan, then figure out what to do next.
“It’s the award we all work for, and it’s fantastic,” said sound mixing winner Chris Munro. Fellow winner Skip Lievsay said “It’s an amazing honor that says you’re doing some things right and working with amazing people.”
Lievsay, also nominated for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” said “I guess you couldn’t have two more different films. They have virtually nothing in common except they were both made by a fantastic filmmaking team who are both possessed by bringing a dramatic film to life.”
But on reflection, he added: “They’re both kind of musicals in a way. “Llewyn Davis” is very directly a musical, and “Gravity” is a movie about space that has a lot of music in it, so it’s sort of a space oddity that way.”
“Gravity” composer Steven Price took home the Oscar for best original score. “My house was basically full of music,” remembered Price of his upbringing. “My memories of growing up are of the record player. My mother claims I learned to speak from listening to records.”
When asked about sound winner Skip Lievsay’s comment that the picture was a musical, in a way, Price said, “There’s no conventional sound in space so I had this incredible canvas to work with. Like a ballet really, I was following the choreography of the characters.”
And of winning, Price said, “I can’t believe it really. I got into my head that it wouldn’t happen. It was a bit of a shock.”
Morgan Neville accepted the Oscar for his documentary “20 Feet from Stardom.”
Neville recalled having to convince the many backup singers profiled in the documentary to come to Sundance. “They said ‘What’s that? And I said it’s in Utah, and they said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ So I had to convince them all to fly to Utah in the middle of winter. I said, ‘Trust me, it’ll be worth it.’
“We got five standing ovations and it was a night that changed all of our lives. I mean, since then, from that moment to this moment, it’s been the most incredible ride.”
“The thing I realized when I was making it is that we’re all backup singers,” said Neville. “Most of us aren’t rock stars; most of us aren’t presidents. Most of us are backup singers. I’ve identified with them and what I’ve found is, I’ve taken this film out and shown it to people, is the people see themselves in this experience.”
When Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez went backstage to talk about their win for “Frozen’s” “Let it Go,” Anderson-Lopez mentioned how grateful she was to have the song touch so many people’s lives.
“Every single day on my Facebook or Twitter, you get some incredible testimony that this song kept me from committing suicide or helped me get through cancer treatment for my kids,” Anderson-Lopez said. “That is just so meaningful to us.”
Lopez added that his children played a large role in inspiring the song. “We have two girls just like Elsa and Anna, and wanted to instill in them the idea that shame and fear shouldn’t hide them from who they really are,” Lopez said.
Spike Jonze, who won the best original screenplay award for “Her,” credited his skills as a writer to his age and fellow authors.
“I don’t think I could have written a screenplay when I was younger,” Jonze said. “I think it took me a long time to learn how to write. I learned a lot from Charlie (Kaufman) and Dave Eggers and Maurice Sendak. I think I’m ready to write what’s in my heart and what I have to say.”
Although “Her” takes place in a not-too-distant future, Jonze said that his version of the future is similar to life today. “… I was using the future as a heightened version of [today]. Everything is easy … but we’re still lonely.”
John Ridley, adapted screenplay winner for “12 Years a Slave” and the second African-American to win a screenwriting Oscar, said, “I think of my parents, who simply wouldn’t let me settle for second best. I think of Solomon (Northup), who wrote his memoir when in parts of the country it was a death sentence. I’m very proud, I’m very humbled, I’m very hopeful of the future. I may only be the second but there are so many other people of other stripes with stories to tell.”
Ridley credited Solomon Northup, whose memoir provided the material for his script and has now made it onto bestseller lists, more than 150 years after it appeared. “Before I started this project I didn’t know Solomon’s name, I didn’t know his story… And that a memoir that’s in public domain, for people to buy it and read it, that means the world to me.”
People have dubbed Matthew McConaughey’s recent acting chops the “McConassaince,” but McConaughey wasn’t aware of the title until recently. When he talked about his best actor win for “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” he admitted he was fond of the “McConassaince” movement.
“Somebody said it at Sundance. I was like I don’t know what it was but it sounds good,” McConaughey joked. “I’ve been more process oriented than I ever have been. I’ve been like f-it, go for it Matthew.”
“I work with single-minded directors. They were all kind of outcast characters. They kind of make up their own rules.”
On winning his first Oscar, McConaughey said he was caught off guard.
“It feels…I’m not going to say surreal. I did not expect it. It’s a bit of the end of a journey with this film and a script that came across my desk four years ago,” McConaughey said.
Alfonso Cuaron, who took home two Oscars tonight, joked that he felt “balanced” when holding one gold statue in each hand.
In his backstage speech, Cuaron described his best director win as the end of a long journey. “What is fantastic about this evening is this has been a very long process,” he said. “This just marks a closure. I’m grateful to ‘Gravity’ and that so many other members of the artistic team have something to celebrate.”
Even though Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) took home the coveted gold statue for best picture, he remained calm, cool and collected. “I’m as cool as a cucumber right now,” McQueen quipped.
“There was still the jump of course. I’m just so ecstatic, so happy for us all. It’s just one of those moments where it might not happen again.”
“12 Years a Slave” producer Brad Pitt, on the other hand, prepared for the Oscars in an unconventional way.
“I had to clean up dog poop today.” said Pitt, who also added the unfortunate location of the canine’s accident. “In my bedroom.”
On a more serious note, Pitt felt the strength of the movie lay in its message.
“I think it’s important because it deals with our history. It’s important that we understand our history not for any kind of guilt but so we understand where we are right now … and most importantly, who we’re going to be,” Pitt said.
“At the end of the day, we just hope this film remains a gentle reminder that we’re all equal. We want the same. We want dignity and opportunity for ourselves and our family.”
Looking as golden as her statuette, Cate Blanchett said she wasn’t put off by the gloomy weather or anything else on her way to the Oscars. “This city needs rain so badly, it’s a slight inconvenience. (And) I had the most phenomenal massage. … My morning began being pummeled like Kobe beef and just got better and better.”
Asked about being the first Aussie to win two acting Oscars, she interjected “And don’t you fucking forget it,” only to quip that “maybe it’s time to stop.”
She did concede to having felt “intense, unbearable pressure that I’m SO glad is over.” Having spent most of the last few years working on stage plays, she usually watches on TV: “Every year there are five, six, 10, 20 performances that I’m gobsmacked by. To be in conversation with those women is the real privilege. The rest is just chocolate.”
David Cohen, Whitney Friedlander, Francesca Bacardi