It was a different Academy Awards night for me. I now know how the show’s participants feel as they walk up the far left side of the red carpet, alongside the armada of press shouting out their names, beseeching them with outstretched cameras and mikes. Even a few friends asked my feelings having vacated my post of 48 years. And Bob Osborne invited Selma and me up to say a few words to the fans in the stands. I gratefully acknowledged with my signature greeting to them — “Good evening, movie fans!” And, as usual, they responded with a roar that illustrated their enthusiasm for movies.
Inside the Kodak Theatre we were seated in the third row surrounded on all sides by nominees and executives — including Academy President Sid Ganis and past winner Mickey Rooney and wife Jan. You cannot imagine the mad scramble getting everyone properly seated as the show began — “seat fillers” had been placed for the last-minute arriving guests. (Traffic getting up to the security checkpoints on Highland Ave. to arrive at the Kodak is a nightmare).
The show’s opening sequence with previous hosts was a tough act for Jon Stewart to follow as was the terrif film history reel edited by Mike Shapiro. But Stewart warmed up to the job and was so relaxed — he’d step down from the stage during commercial breaks to chat with celebs in the front rows. Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves were seated in front of us, Matt Dillon to the left. They jumped when “Crash” was announced.
Meanwhile in the row in front of them were Felicity Huffman and husband Bill Macy. He placed his arm around his wife’s shoulders to reassure her. I felt badly as a camera was glued on them. And in the commercial break immediately after Reese Witherspoon had won, Huffman and Macy headed to the bar in the lobby — bringing a drink back with them for the rest of the show.
As you previously read here, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin who costar in Robert Altman’s upcoming “A Prairie Home Companion,” made the (comic) introduction to honorary Oscar winner Altman. The ovation given him was one of the longest I can remember — yes even topping those given to winners like Charlie Chaplin and, Laurence Olivier. Altman in his speech announced what we’d also told you — that his heart is OK — “since it (the heart) is only 40 years old” — from his transplant donor via open-heart surgery.
Last year’s director winner Clint Eastwood did not present this year because of his mother’s recent death, I was told. Tom Hanks who had appeared in the earlier film clip illustrating overlong acceptance speeches, made the director presentation to Ang Lee. Oscar winner Jack Nicholson who obviously enjoys the event, joyously announced the best picture winner. (Such an exuberant presenter admitted to me, “You know how much I love the Oscars.”) “Crash,” had been a very early-on favorite of his, having praised it to me long before it was in competition as a nominee. “We thought Jack must have misread the card,” Oscar-winner (original screenplay) Bobby Moresco told me.
The affable George Clooney was the object of most attendees at the Board of Governors’ Ball where he and Matt Dillon were talking seriously about making thought-provoking movies like “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Crash” and “Syriana.” We left the Ball alongside Steven Spielberg who told me he was pleased that “Crash” had won. And he said he will positively take a year off directing after having done two back-to-back. He will concentrate on getting/readying projects for DreamWorks. “Directing is too tough,” he allowed.
Baskets full of Oscar-shaped chocolate statuettes from Wolfgang Puck were awaiting guests as they made their way into the night. Wolfie’s award-rating crew had again capped Oscar’s night.