Backstage notes

Moore continues anti-Bush speech

Main Story: ‘Chicago’ shimmies to best pic


High notes for ‘Pianist’ & Polanski

Wins cap wild ride for Miramax

‘Chicago’ likely to reap all that B.O.


Oscar honors O’Toole for his trade


Army Archerd


Silence before the Oscars


Scream play goes to protests


Backstage notes


‘Night Before’ party hearty after all





Documentary feature winner Michael Moore continued his anti-Bush rant backstage. Asked why he had done what he’d done in his acceptance speech, Moore’s answer was defiantly simple: “I’m an American.”

Pressed on the point, he added, “I do that in my filmmaking, in my daily life. You don’t leave your citizenship at the doors of the Kodak Theater.”

Moore deplored what he called “a culture of violence,” asking, “What was the lesson that we taught the children of Columbine?” Answering himself, he said, “We taught them that violence is an acceptable form of resolution.”

Fending off a question about the aud’s supposedly mixed reaction to his speech, Moore responded, “That’s not what I saw. Don’t report that there was a split decision in the hall because five loud people booed. Do your job.”

On air, Moore derided President George W. Bush as “a fictitious president.”

Moore, who bounded onstage with all the docu nominees when his name was read, came backstage with only his producer Michael Donovan, who remained silent. He explained that the invitation to bring the other nominees onstage was made only moments before, in the midst of the telecast.

“I told them during the commercial break, come, I am going to speak out against this war, and they did. … (This award) speaks truth to the fiction out there. … We need to reclaim our country.”

* * *

Adrien Brody‘s first action after accepting the actor Oscar for “The Pianist” was to kiss presenter Halle Berry. “If you ever have an excuse to do something like that, that’s it,” Brody joked backstage. “I took my shot.”

And did she kiss back? “Oh yeah,” Brody said with a grin.

As for the more serious aspects of his speech, Brody recognized the mixed emotions of the evening. “I didn’t have qualms about coming tonight. It’s just a difficult thing to do, to celebrate when there is sadness and conflict in the world. Our achievements as artists and filmmakers and actors are valid and we deserve to celebrate that; it’s just the timing for me is a little odd.”

On his unrehearsed speech Brody commented, “I said what I felt like saying.

“I’m tremendously honored to have this opportunity to express my feelings about what’s happening to the world,” he added.

* * *

“The Pianist” scribe Ronald Harwood claimed he was “more thrilled” about helmer Roman Polanski’s directing Oscar than his own for adapted screenplay. That seemed fitting, since Harwood fielded more questions for and about Polanski than he did for himself.

After his win, the writer said, he tried to contact Polanski, but had to leave a message on the fugitive helmer’s cell phone. “I said, ‘I wish you were here.’ ”

When pressed about Polanski’s reluctance to grant press interviews, even in Europe, Harwood explained, “The press don’t want to treat him as an artist; they want to treat him as a celebrity with a scandal in his background.”

The followup question was about exactly that scandal. Harwood curtly responded, “I have nothing to say about it.”

He turned on his heel and quickly decamped for parties elsewhere.

* * *

Asked where she was going to keep her Oscar, supporting actress winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, who turned out to be the apple of “Chicago’s” eye Sunday, said: “Right in between my husband’s (Michael Douglas) two, but a bit more to the forefront.”

* * *

Composer Elliot Goldenthal hopes people will look to the real-life inspirations of “Frida,” artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, for a way to successfully mix art and politics. “I think in these times today, where political consciousness has to be raised and brought to the forefront, you couldn’t have any two artists who better bring together art and conscience.”

The question of whether he still harbors any ill will against Harvey Weinstein caused Goldenthal to remark, “That’s a Miramax spy over there.” His answer to the question was, “No one was ever keeping score; you have to at one point let it go. Whether it’s the potato famine or the Holocaust, whatever, eventually you just have to move on.”

* * *

Conrad L. Hall and son Conrad W. Hall, who accepted the cinematography trophy on behalf of his late father for “Road to Perdition,” had more in common than a shared name; the two bonded through a joint passion for filmmaking. But that was not always the case. “My father’s work often took him away from the family for long periods of time,” said the younger Hall, also a d.p. (“Panic Room”), “and as a boy that was all I knew.

“I did not understand his love for his work. How could I, really? You can’t know, or taste, that passion unless you feel it yourself. I joined this industry to be closer to him, and by doing so I not only got to spend time with my dad, but I learned why he loved it so much.”

* * *

Luis Resto shared honors for original song with his “Lose Yourself” co-writers Jeff Bass and Eminem, but he was the only one of the trio present at the ceremony. Backstage, Resto fielded questions about the MIA Marshall Mathers.

“I think he’s gonna feel great having an Oscar,” Resto said about Eminem. “He’s really proud of the song; it’s a really positive tune.”

When asked whether Mathers was expecting to win the Oscar, Resto said, “I don’t think so, but I know it means a lot to him.”

And why exactly was the Grammy- and now Oscar-winning rap superstar not in attendance at the ceremony? “He’s really busy. He’s been running a record label and he works very hard. Marshall does exactly what he thinks is best.”

* * *

Editor Martin Walsh was part of the evening’s “Chicago” steamroller, but backstage he was interrupted by one of the night’s most unexpected wins: Adrien Brody‘s triumph in the actor competish.

As journalists backstage were still staring at Brody with mouths agape, the intrepid Walsh managed to get in a few words on his film’s controversial cutting. “A lot of people say it’s MTV style, but I think we were making movies like that before MTV came along. We were doing this 25 years ago.”

According to Walsh, the film’s fast-paced style “was a conscious decision” of director Rob Marshall. “We wanted to make the film as fast as we could. I don’t think the storyline ever got blurred or spoiled by the pace of the editing. I think we were successful.”

* * *

Working on “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” undoubtedly presented its fair share of challenges, but asked to pick just one, Oscar-winning sound editor Ethan Van der Ryn said, “The biggest challenge was the sheer scale of the movie. It’s so huge. It was how to create in a sonic sense these incredible battles. We had to find to do it in a way that doesn’t wear the audience out.”

Co-winner Mike Hopkins spoke about the boost “Towers” is expected to provide to New Zealand’s film industry. “We’ve yet to see the benefits, but I think it has helped New Zealand, because we’ve all learned so much from working with Peter Jackson.”

* * *

The honoree in the docu short category, “Twin Towers,” was born out of the events of Sept. 11. As the world continues to feel the ramifications of that day, “Towers” filmmakers Bill Guttentag and Robert David Port said they were humbled by their Oscar win. The short follows two New York brothers, one a policeman and one a firefighter, both killed on 9/11. Port noted, “We had been filming them for three months (in preparation for a separate TV project with Dick Wolf). After Sept. 11 happened, we all dedicated ourselves to making this project a film.”

* * *

Oscar winners for best makeup John Jackson and Beatrice De Alba were determined to do justice to the artistic legacy of the title character in “Frida.” Jackson recalls, “We had the entire trailer covered with photocopies of all of (Frida’s) work to give us inspiration for what we were trying to do.”

De Alba was especially honored to be a part of a film that paid tribute to her own Mexican heritage, especially since she had to fight for her role on the film. “They had already hired someone in my position. I called and said, ‘I don’t care if I work for free, I don’t care if I assist someone, I want to be on this movie.’ When that person dropped out, I was able to step in. I was thrilled to be there as a Mexican making a film about a Mexican artist for mainstream audiences.

* * *

It’s fitting that the first picture ever to win an Oscar was a war movie — 1927’s “Wings,” starring Clara Bow and Buddy Rogers. Even so, the scene backstage at the 75th Oscarcast initially was one of intense distraction. With no winners yet to interview, more than one reporter took the opportunity to check out the Drudge Report, with its photos of war casualties, on a laptop computer. Scenes of Bradley Fighting Vehicles taking fire outside Nasiriya flashed on eight TV monitors in concert, making for as surreal an Oscar pre-show as ever was. They were followed by KABC-TV’s local news, filled with previously recorded interviews, updates about Oscar’s you-can’t-believe-how-tight security and brief chats with celebs on their way in to the Kodak. As Denzel Washington put it, “Our hearts and minds are elsewhere.”

Perhaps the photo on Roger Ebert‘s press badge conveyed the ambivalence best. His pose: One thumb up. The diamond-anniversary show was going to go on, but with far fewer karats on the carpet.

* * *

Supporting actor winner Chris Cooper cocked an eyebrow at his first question backstage, from the Boston Herald, whose reporter claimed he had been the frontrunner.

“Your paper had another opinion on that,” Cooper replied dryly, to which the reporter hedged, “Well, I thought you were the frontrunner.”

Cooper admitted the role of real-life orchid thief John Laroche was one he considered dodging.

“Initially, I didn’t think that I was capable of fulfilling the role,” he said. He admitted his wife pushed him to do it, admonishing, ” ‘Often the roles that you shy away from are the ones that you’d better pursue.’ That’s been the case for roles that have been the most helpful to me.”

Asked if he wanted to amplify on his expressed desire for peace in his acceptance speech, Cooper responded, “As (the war) goes on, minds will be changed.” He added, “I really did say all I wanted to say.”

* * *

“Chicago” production designer John Myhre was already a fan of the stage production before he began working on the film version. “I was in London and saw ‘Chicago’ on stage there. The very next day my agent called and said, ‘They’re making a film of “Chicago” — would you be interested?’ I said yes immediately.”

Myhre acknowledges that although the stage production was an inspiration, creating the sets was no copycat job. “The fun of the show was that it was half Broadway musical and half film. Our film is very different; most of the recent revivals had almost no sets.”

Myhre reserved his highest praise for director Rob Marshall’s “strong vision to make a cinematic piece out of the play.”

* * *

“The Lord of the Rings” visual effects gang, who took the stage as two-time aces — having won in the f/x category last year for “The Fellowship of the Ring” — may have been backstage for their “Two Towers” win, but pros Jim Rygiel and Randall William Cook and first-time winners Alex Funke and Joe Letteri already were talking about “The Return of the King.” “It is going to be bigger, better and even more fantastic,” Letteri promised. “We are taking the characters from ‘Two Towers’ and supercharging them, pulling out all the stops.”

Putting to rest speculation that helmer Peter Jackson was a no-show because of the war, Rygiel said Jackson could not afford to take the trip because he is knee-deep in cutting film: “We have more than 1,000 shots to weed through and he needed to get started. The third film is Peter’s passion. He always says that he put up with the first two installments just so he could make the third.”

* * *

Despite its Windy City title, Oscar darling “Chicago” was filmed in Toronto. When asked about the “runaway production” issue, set decorator Gord Sim, who picked up an Oscar as part of pic’s production design team, noted, “We do have very good crews in Toronto, so it’s not so surprising we could work on a film of this nature. Everyone in Toronto is very interested in working on films, and they all work to a high level of quality. We’re just happy films like ‘Chicago’ are coming to Toronto.”

* * *

Animated short “The ChubbChubbs” was the favorite to win its category, but its origins were far more uncertain. Director Eric Armstrong explained the short was an “experiment” for Sony’s newly formed animation division. ” ‘ChubbChubbs’ was a test to see what was working and what wasn’t. They wanted to see if we were ready to make a feature. I’m glad we did it now.”

As for whether the short will end up as a feature, Armstrong noted, “The success of the project has created some interest, (but) we don’t know for sure if it will happen.”