×

Relieved and revered

Backstage reactions at the Academy Awards

This article was updated at 12:06 a.m.

Asked whether his joy at taking top pic honors was muted by the lawsuits surrounding producer credits on “Crash,” Paul Haggis shot back, “Do we look muted? Do our reactions come off as muted? Because we’re pretty fuckin’ happy.”

He added that “A lot of people made this film. The people who are listed as producers, Cathy (Schulman), Bob (Yari), Don (Cheadle) and Mark (Harris) and Bobby (Moresco) are the reason we’re here.”

He said they didn’t believe the rumors that “Crash” would overtake “Brokeback Mountain” to win best picture. “We were shocked. We’re still trying to figure out if we actually even got this.”

Haggis, also winner with Bobby Moresco in the original screenplay category, said not being native Angelenos proved to their advantage in crafting a story about race relations in the City of Angels.

“Being an outsider in this town is a good thing. As an artist, being an outsider anywhere is a good thing,” said the Canada native.

* * *

“Crash” producer Cathy Schulman puzzled many when she thanked “my husband and my wife” onstage.

Backstage, she said she misspoke and meant to thank her daughter.

Writer Moresco observed, “I was sitting with her husband and he asked, ‘Who’s her wife?’ ”

* * *

It was hard for Ang Lee to conceal his disappointment that “Brokeback Mountain” lost best picture to “Crash.” But given a second chance, the helmer said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I would do exactly the same. I’m so proud of the movie,” he said. “They didn’t vote for it, I don’t know (why). … I’m just glad the audience embraced it.”

Lee also gave kudos to Heath Ledger for his lead turn in the pic.

“In film history, it will be something that’s remembered,” Lee said. “Lots of people tell me his performance reminds them of the young Brando.”

* * *

Remaining as cool and collected backstage as he’s been the entire awards season, Philip Seymour Hoffman nevertheless admitted that upon hearing his name, “I think I lost control of my bowels.”

Thesp said his win in the lead actor category for “Capote” wouldn’t change his strategy in choosing parts.

“I hope all the roles I take are character roles,” he said. “Lead, supporting, gaffer, it’s how I look at it. I don’t think a character role is a supporting role.”

* * *

In addition to an actress Oscar for “Walk the Line,” the awards season has given Reese Witherspoon a chance to get over her fear of crowds.

“Talking in front of a large group of people or singing is really hard,” she said. “Moviemaking for me has always been very small and very intimate — no more than 50 people watching your performance and they are all busy doing something important. For me, this is a great accomplishment to learn to stand in my own shoes and my own self.”

* * *

Picking up the Oscar for his supporting role in “Syriana,” George Clooney joked about putting on pounds for the role.

“The gentleman that I was playing in the movie, Bob Baer, was sort of pudgy and out of shape, and then he found out a Hollywood guy was playing him so he got in shape and it kind of screwed everything up for me.”

Clooney said he hadn’t prepared an acceptance speech because he thought there were “four other actors that were probably going to win.”

* * *

Rachel Weisz knew she was the bookmakers’ favorite to win supporting actress honors, but said that “only made it more nerve-racking.”

When her name was called Sunday night for her role in “The Constant Gardener,” she said, “I think it’s because I’m pregnant — my brain’s like porridge anyway — I went blank. It’s a very strange, surreal feeling.”

Regarding the plethora of socially conscious nominees this year, Weisz said, “It’s definitely nice to be part of a moment where fiction is holding a mirror up to contemporary culture and asking questions.”

As for her baby’s name, she said she and her fiance, director Darren Aronofsky, are considering many names, “But Oscar isn’t amongst them.”

* * *

Original screenplay honoree Diana Ossana admitted being “startled” by the victory of “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain.”

“It’s wonderful that we won for the score, the directing and the screenplay,” said Ossana, “But it’s been a journey of nine years, and the best picture award honors everyone involved in the picture. So of course it’s bittersweet.”

Co-writer Larry McMurtry observed that he’s been involved in the writing of four films that were nommed for top pic. “The three rural films lost,” he said. “The one urban film, ‘Terms of Endearment,’ won.”

“Members of the Academy are mostly urban people,” he said, adding that “‘Crash’ was a hometown movie.”

* * *

Contrary to popular belief, Robert Altman doesn’t hate Hollywood.

“This Hollywood (outsider) thing that’s been tagged on me is just apocryphal, it’s not true,” said the honorary Oscar recipient. “I’ve been nominated five times, and I’ve come every time, and I love it, and I plan to be back again.”

In his speech onstage accepting his honorary Oscar, the helmer confirmed that he had received a heart transplant 10 years ago, from a woman in her late 30s.

“I didn’t make a big secret out of it, but I thought maybe no one would hire me again,” he said. “There’s such a stigma about heart transplants, and there’s a lot of us out there. I gotta tell ya, I have a female heart, I think. It feels like it.”

Speaking of gender, Altman also said he’d be willing to direct his own gay love story at some point. “There’s man and woman, and man and man, and woman and woman,” he said, adding with a slight leer, “and then there’s man and woman and woman. I like that one a lot.”

* * *

Amid the diamonds, purses and pendants, the Oscar-winning crew from doc “March of the Penguins” thought they had the best accessories of the night: those four giant stuffed penguins.

“Our distributor in Japan made them and sent them for us as good luck and they worked,” said helmer Luc Jacquet, joined backstage by Yves Darondeau, Emmanuel Priou and Christopher Lioud.

The quartet hope the Oscar will help get the pic’s original French version into U.S. theaters. “We’d love to show the original version to the American public,” Jacquet said.

* * *

“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” may not have been the first hip-hop tune to win original song honors, but the members of Three 6 Mafia were certainly the first winners to show up backstage in jeans, denim jackets and skull T-shirts.

Jordan “Juicy J” Houston, who accepted with fellow songwriters Cedric “Frayser Boy” Coleman and Paul “DJ Paul” Beauregard for the “Hustle & Flow” song, said he had no problem tweaking the lyrics to the gritty tune for the kudocast.

“I had to,” he said. “My mom was watching.”

* * *

“Tsotsi” writer-director Gavin Hood was at no loss for words in accepting South Africa’s first foreign-language film Oscar.

“I feel damn great. I feel truly overjoyed,” he said. “It doesn’t get better than this. This is the Olympics of filmmaking.”

Hood, who was so ebullient that he burst into song backstage, said he hoped the victory would boost investor confidence in South African productions.

“I feel very, very proud to hold this, because it tells me and everyone else at home that we can do it,” he said. “Our stories are universal, and human emotion is universal. We’re more alike than we think, around the world.”

* * *

“This is the first time a computer-generated character has brought an audience to the point that they cry,” said Richard Taylor, who shared the f/x Oscar, his fifth, for “King Kong.” “This means that computer-generated cinema has a bright future,”

F/x supervisor Joe Letteri thanked motion-capture actor Andy Serkis “for really giving us the heart of Kong.”

* * *

Nick Park and Steve Box, co-directors of animated feature winner “Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” tweaked the seriousness of the ceremonies backstage, having attached tiny bowties to their statuettes.

“We know how sacred the Academy Awards are,” joked Box.

The duo noted the absence of 3D toons in this year’s category, which also included “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.” “All three (nominees) are beautiful and unique, and maybe the CGI films this year didn’t hit that mark,” Box said.

Added Park, “We’re just glad Pixar didn’t have a movie out this year.”

* * *

For all the fuss over the ethnic backgrounds of “Memoirs of a Geisha’s” lead actresses, costume designer Colleen Atwood saw the film’s elaborate kimono-stitching work as a multicultural endeavor.

“I had women from Armenia, from Costa Rica, from Mexico making kimonos while listening to ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ with their headsets in Spanish,” she said. “It was really interesting that all these different cultures embraced the beauty of the kimono with the greatest love.”

* * *

For “Memoirs of a Geisha’s” John Myhre, visiting Japan for the first time was “a dream come true” for a production designer.

“I had loved Arthur Golden’s beautiful book, so rich in detail, and everywhere we looked in Japan would be these fantastic details, from small little flowers to huge pagodas.”

A previous winner for 2002’s “Chicago,” Myhre shared the “Geisha” kudo with set decorator Gretchen Rau, who wasn’t able to attend for health reasons. “I guarantee you she’s watching the show,” he said. “I hope it was very noisy at her house tonight.”

* * *

Howard Berger and Tami Lane, winners in the makeup category, addressed the controversy surrounding conflicting awards for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Berger won a BAFTA trophy last month along with Nikki Gooley and Gregory Nicotero, but Berger and Lane were the only winners Sunday night.

“It’s two different award show rules and the BAFTAs pull from the credits, and when it came time for the Oscar nominations you can only have two people on the ticket and the (Academy’s) makeup committee decided it would be Tami,” Berger explained. “Nicky is fantastic and magnificent and was a giant team player and it’s just the way it went. I am proud to have Tami by my side. She worked as hard as I did on this show so she deserves it.”

* * *

“Brokeback Mountain” composer Gustavo Santaolalla, winner for original score, praised the collaboration he enjoyed with director Ang Lee.

“I read the script and then the original story by Annie Proulx and then a month later, I had a meeting with Ang where we talked about the music. Then I came back to Los Angeles and wrote all the songs before the film was shot,” explained the Argentinian Santaolalla. “He lived with that music for the shooting and when he did the first cut, he had so much music and he structured where the music would be in the picture. That’s why I think the movie and music work so great together.”

* * *

“I think it’s a little suspicious how many Australians have won,” quipped “Memoirs of a Geisha” cinematographer Dion Beebe, the latest in a long line of Oz lensers to take home an Oscar.

After a “terrifying” moment onstage, he said, he remembered to thank his mother, who was in the Kodak Theater. “She’s a great woman. For a night like this, which is so crazy and surreal, it’s good having your mum in the room to keep it down to earth.”

* * *

“King Kong” sound effects editors Mike Hopkins and Ethan Van der Ryn said their team’s work together on “Lord of the Rings” set the stage for their second Oscar win.

“It’s like a well-oiled machine,” Hopkins said. “When there’s a problem, when there’s drama, the team knows what to do. We get three minutes to whine about it and then we move on.”

* * *

Instead of fielding questions backstage about his craft, film editing Oscar winner Hughes Winborne was quizzed about the woman who handed him his new golden boy — “Geisha” star Ziyi Zhang.

“I told her how beautiful she looked,” Winborne gushed. “As for how her English has improved, I’m not sure. But it was an honor to receive it from her.”

* * *

The tech wins for “King Kong” spelled a big night for New Zealand, and that left some Aussies feeling a bit inferior. Sound mixing winner Hammond Peek jumped in to head off the rivalry.

“Why are you guys always competing?,” said Peek. “I’m always hearing about the Aussies vs. the Kiwis. I’m half Kiwi, and I have to say the Aussies are phenomenal.”

The quartet of Peek, Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick and Michael Hedges said they didn’t mind the night’s sonic innovation: the music that played under acceptance speeches.

“We’re not breathing at that point, so we don’t care what they play.” said Boyes. “We mix sound effects, music and dialogue. We’re used to it.”

* * *

John Canemaker and Peggy Stern were first-time winners for animated short “The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation,” an autobiographical toon and docu hybrid about Canemaker’s difficult relationship with his father.

Stern said he’s happy auds are getting a chance to see the five Oscar-nommed shorts via a limited theatrical run.

“Magnolia Films has done a release. And iTunes is putting the film up, so it’s incredible what we can see in the future,” Stern said.