If social media is the judge, it was the most daring and heartfelt moment of the 2015 Oscar show. And it almost didn’t happen.
Screenwriter Graham Moore recounted Monday that, as he thanked family and co-workers on “The Imitation Game” after winning the adapted screenplay Oscar Sunday and watched the 45-second clock tick away to almost nil, doubt seized him.
“It says I have 10 seconds left. I had this moment of kind of quivering and I thought, ‘I could just walk off the stage right now,’ ” Moore said. “But then I thought, ‘When am I ever going to get a platform like this again?'”
So the 33-year-old offered a revelation that even close friends did not know and that he had not shared during the endless press tour that followed his nomination for multiple awards for his screenplay about code-breaker Alan Turing’s life.
“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself,” Moore told the audience at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre and around the world, “because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I am standing here.
“So I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different. And when it’s your turn to stand on this stage, pass the message along.”
There would be plenty of social and political commentary on Oscar night — on the lily-white hue of most Oscar contenders, the lack of equal pay for women, the continuing struggle for black civil rights and of Mexican immigrants for fairness. But Moore’s words were the evening’s most personal and challenging, breaking a still rigid taboo, against acknowledging mental illness, especially one’s own.
Some had assumed that his interest in Turing might be because he, too, was gay. But backstage, the boyish writer told the media that his interest in the World War II-era story was actually due to his subject’s struggles with despondency.
“I’m not gay, but I’ve never talked publicly about depression before or any of that and that was so much of what the movie was about, and it was one of the things that drew me to Alan Turing so much,” Moore told the media. “I think we all feel like weirdos for different reasons. Alan had his share of them, and I had my own. And that’s what always moved me so much about his story.”
Moore said he knew ahead of time that he wanted to talk about his struggle with depression but he did not write out any remarks. He said he was superstitious and didn’t want to jinx his chances. He didn’t even tell his mother, brother and sister — who all attended with him — what he had in mind.
Over the years, though, he had made many “imagined acceptance speeches into shampoo bottles in the shower.” In those moments, “I always knew that if I ever at some point got to get on a stage … what I wanted to say.”
Still, there is imagining and there is reality. As he finished his initial “thank yous” Sunday night, the cavernous theater struck him as preternaturally quiet. The lights glared so brightly he could not make out any faces. Only the clock, clicking quickly toward zero, loomed.
So he just kept talking and said essentially what he had hoped he would. Only afterward did he begin to realize the impact he had made. A man approached him at an Oscar after-party and told Moore about his own long struggle with depression. He told Moore that too few people spoke publicly about mental illness and that he now believed that, for the first time, he might share his ordeal with his family.
The two men embraced; Moore said, “To get that response from a stranger was really moving.”
Overwhelmed by the frantic vibrating of his phone Sunday night, the writer stayed mostly off-line. He enjoyed the moment with his family. “They have been with me through the worst times of my life, and I think it was very moving for all of us that they got to be there at one of the best.”