Backstage notes at the Oscars

Winners reflect on their Academy kudos


“The Artist”

La Petite Reine/Studio 37/La Classe Americaine/JD Prod/France3 Cinema/Jouror Prods./uFilm production; Thomas Langmann, producer (the Weinstein Co.)

Thomas Langmann paid tribute to the role Harvey Weinstein played in getting “The Artist” all the way to the big wins on Sunday night.

“A month before Cannes (last year), I asked him to come to France to watch a movie from a director that he (had) never heard of with a cast he’d barely heard of — but he came,” Langmann said. “I saw in his eyes and his attitude that he really cared for the movie, that he really believed that we could maybe be here today. He’s the only distributor who, even with this very special movie, would be able to take it to where it is today.”


Jean Dujardin

“The Artist”

“I love your country,” Dujardin enthused as he took the stage to claim his actor win for “The Artist.” He pointed out that the first Oscars ceremony in 1929 was by silent-movie icon Douglas Fairbanks. “Tickets cost $5, and it lasted 15 minutes. Times have changed. So, thank you, Douglas Fairbanks.”

Dujardin ended his speech with what he expected his “Artist” alter ego, George Valentin, would say: “Formidable! Merci beaucoup! I love you!”

Clearly flushed and excited, actor winner Jean Dujardin said that while he’d love to do another silent film in the U.S., he knew he’d always be a French actor in America.

“I’m not (an) American actor, I’m a French actor. I continue in France,” the thesp said backstage.

And yes, the thesp admitted that he also dropped the F-bomb onstage, although his French version didn’t cause the censors to cut the mic.

“I watched a lot of movies — Douglas Fairbanks movies, Gene Kelly movies,” the actor said of preparing for his role in “The Artist.” “I had fun pretending to be a movie star in 1920s.”


Meryl Streep

“The Iron Lady”

Streep met the press beaming, with an elongated “Hiiiiiiiii.” Winning again after so many years, she admitted, “I thought I was so old and jaded. But they call your name and you go into a white light. It was like I was a kid again. It was doubly wonderful because my longtime collaborative colleague Roy Helland won. I was really, really proud for him.”

She said she never worried she might never win again. “I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of in my life. I think there’s room for other people. I understand Streep fatigue and I’m shocked it didn’t override this tonight.”

A British reporter confirmed Streep was wearing a brand of shoe favored by Margaret Thatcher, and asked if she would celebrate with a whiskey, as Lady Thatcher was wont to do, the actress said, “I’m going to start with a couple and then we’ll see if I can walk on the Ferragamos.”

Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer


Even at 82, Plummer views awards as a meaningful career marker, though the accolade biz may be hitting the breaking point.

“It’s la creme on top,” he said. “It’s lovely to be accepted. Beyond the pleasure of working in front of a live audience, (awards are) sort of a general acceptance of your work. It’s thrilling. I don’t pooh-pooh awards, although there are so many of them. They’re inventing new ones every day.”

Supporting actress

Octavia Spencer

“The Help”

After a slew of wins, Spencer wasn’t about to overthink her Oscar-night celebration.

“I’m actually going to have a quarter of a glass of champagne. I’m just going to live in this moment because it’s never happened before and Lord knows it may never happen again,” she said.


“The Artist”

Michel Hazanavicius

The fall festival circuit convinced Hazanavicius that auds were really swooning for “The Artist.” After warm receptions at the Telluride, Toronto and New York film fests, he no longer felt like the nervous Frenchman trying to crash Hollywood.

“I realized people really enjoyed the movie,” he said. “When people really enjoy the movie, it’s not really difficult. You’re not selling, you’re not promoting.”

Original screenplay

“Midnight in Paris”

Woody Allen

Adapted screenplay

“The Descendants”

Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

“The Descendants” writers had plenty of fun on the red carpet before the show.

On seeing Angelina Jolie, writer Rash joked, “I just saw her pose and I thought, you know what, we have exactly the same legs.”

Co-writer Faxon put it more bluntly: “She’s supremely hot.”

Animated feature


Gore Verbinski (Paramount)

Verbinski, picking up his first-ever Oscar for helming animated feature “Rango,” was asked whether he dreamt of taking home an Academy Award for a live-action pic or an animated one.

“I’m feeling dreamy right now,” he said. “I don’t think it matters. It’s here. It’s in my hand. It’s very heavy. It feels good.”

Recalling that the movie started development in secret, outside the studio system, Verbinski said, “It helps when you’re friends with Johnny Depp. We needed money and once Johnny said he was in, things started to happen.”

Foreign-language film

“A Separation”

a Dreamlab Films production, Iran (Sony Pictures Classics)

“People in Iran follow the Oscars a lot more than you think they do,” said “A Separation” helmer Farhadi. “It’s the middle of the night but people are not sleeping, and they are following along.”

Farhadi demurred on the question of how the Oscar would affect his life. “I’m very happy about this award and I believe the Iranian people are also very happy and this is what matters to me.”

He said he wasn’t focused on the reaction of the Iranian government, whose officials had divided reactions to his pic. “To me what matters is that the people of Iran are happy.”



Robert Richardson

Richardson, who picked up his third cinematography Oscar, admitted to being shy about taking the stage as the night’s first winner.

“Cinematography? We’re behind the lens, we’re not in front of the lens.” But he added, “I’m elated. I didn’t see this happening. I loved the work of (Emmanuel Lubezki) in ‘The Tree of Life.’ I’m extraordinarily happy, but I do love that man. I hope that recognition will be coming soon.”

Film editing

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall

Film editing and best picture honors have traditionally been closely linked, so editors Baxter and Wall said they were especially shocked to hear their names called, since “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” wasn’t nommed for top honors.

“We weren’t expecting it at all. And there’s no getting used to this,” said Baxter, while Wall said, “We felt (editing and picture) went hand-in-hand, too. I don’t ever remember being so surprised in my life as when they called our names.”

It was the second win in a row for the pair, who also took the prize for last year’s David Fincher-helmed “The Social Network.”

Baxter said he didn’t worry about viewers who might have seen the original Swedish version of “Dragon Tattoo.” “(It) was irrelevant to me because I’m being responsive to what Fincher has shot,” he said.

Original score

“The Artist”

Ludovic Bource

Speaking through a French translator, score winner Bource revealed that the first statue he received for “The Artist” came in the form of a woman.

“(My son said,) ‘Papa, you need to bring me the man, the Oscar, so they can kiss each other,’ ” the composer said.

Despite his Gallic background, Bource intended his music to honor entertainment from the United States.

“All the work I did on ‘The Artist’ was a declaration of love to American culture and American cinema,” Bource said in French, before speaking his first English words of the evening: “Thank you, good night.”

Original song

“Man or Muppet”

music and lyric by Bret McKenzie, “The Muppets” (Walt Disney)

McKenzie couldn’t escape the “Flight of the Conchords” questions backstage after his song win for “Man or Muppet” from “Th
e Muppets.” After flying solo on the movie project, he’s eager to get back to his long-standing collaboration with Jemaine Clement on the oddball folk-comedy duo.

“It seems to have gone very well. I’m looking forward to writing with Jemaine again. I can pull out the Oscar card and say ‘Mmmm, I think we should use this chord. I won the Oscar.’ ”

Documentary feature


TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas; a Spitfire Pictures production (the Weinstein Co.)

Having just dropped the second annual Oscar F-bomb (after last year’s Melissa Leo faux pas), “Undefeated’s” filmmaking team felt a little remorseful that a curse detracted from their core message.

“First and foremost, I’d actually like to apologize for that,” said co-director Martin. “I don’t think it was the classiest thing in the world.”

Martin and Lindsay spent time getting to know an African-American football team and its white coach in a poverty-stricken area of Memphis. Oscarcast producers cut their mic after Martin’s mid-speech expletive.

“The most important message for us to deliver was that this award was for the people of Memphis,” Lindsay said. “It was heartbreaking that we got cut off and we weren’t allowed to say that.”

Art direction


production design: Dante Ferretti, set decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo

Husband-and-wife collaborators Ferretti and Lo Schiavo know something about working as a team. Their art-direction kudo for “Hugo” marked their third Oscar win, and they said it’ll only encourage them to try for a fourth.

“For me, it doesn’t change anything, because I have more enthusiasm (to) keep going,” Lo Schiavo said.

And for Ferretti, the win repped a special treat.

“Today is my birthday,” he said backstage. “And this is the most incredible gift.”

Costume design

“The Artist”

Mark Bridges

Bridges and the rest of “The Artist” team did their homework in prepping the pic’s sartorial style with plenty of screenings. “There’s a great film called ‘Show People’ starring Marion Davies that was great research for us. We also watched things like ‘It,’ ‘Our Dancing Daughters,’ ‘City Girl’ and ‘Sunrise.’ Those were emotional touchstones for us.”

It wasn’t that they made Xerox copies of those films’ wardrobes, but they wanted to “get the flavor and know how things were worn,” Bridges said.


“The Iron Lady”

Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Tag-teaming backstage, makeup winners Coulier and Helland had quick responses to the question of their biggest challenges on “The Iron Lady.”

“The budget,” Helland said, explaining that “Lady’s” $14 million didn’t leave much room for hair and makeup. “No time, no money … I was allowed to have five wigs made and they were rented, covering over 40 years.”

For Coulier, the challenge was having to “work fast.”

Helland offered some personal advice imparted to him years earlier: “Don’t paint what you see; paint what you want.”

Sound editing


Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty

Sound editors Stockton and Gearty took a little time to get used to Sunday’s flashbulbs backstage.

“We’re not on camera, are we?” Gearty asked, receiving an affirmative answer. “Oh, shit.”

Not that the “Hugo” winners were terribly surprised to find themselves in the spotlight.

“When you work for Martin Scorsese, there’s always a chance that you’re going to be nominated for an Oscar,” Stockton said.

Sound mixing


Tom Fleischman and John Midgley

Working on his first 3D film was not too daunting for “Hugo” sound mixer Fleischman. “We’ve been mixing in 3D for years, we’ve had surround speakers in theaters and been able to bring things off the screen,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to use the new Dolby 7.1 system (for ‘Hugo’). That allowed us to open up the sound and make it more enveloping.”

Midgley admitted to being nervous about their Oscar prospects, even after “Hugo” began racking up craft wins. “I got a bit scared when (the film) won the first two (awards),” he said as he clutched his trophy tight.

Visual Effects


Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning

Legato, one of the quartet that won for visual effects, said that by honoring “Hugo” above the vfx extravaganzas in the category, the Academy “judged on the merits of art as much as they did the technology.”

Legato’s fellow winner Grossman agreed. “The films in our category were just stunning films we would never expect to be even up against and get a chance to compete with,” he said, prompting Legato to aver, “We were surprised when they called our names,” despite the fact that “Hugo” had already swept numerous tech awards by that point.

Animated short

“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”

William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg; a Moonbot Studios LA Production

“I think an atomic joy bomb has just exploded in the northern part of Louisiana,” animated short winner Joyce said with a grin backstage, referring to the home of Moonbot Studios, the company behind “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”

Co-winner Oldenburg said, “The short was to tell a story and to serve as a calling card for our company, and the whole point was to get the world to recognize what we’re capable of in Shreveport, La.

“This is really cool,” Oldenburg added. “We want to do more shorts. We want to do more apps. We want to do more games. We want to do more books. And we eventually will do a movie.”

Documentary short

“Saving Face”

Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy; a Milkhaus/Jungefilm production

Director Obaid-Chinoy hopes her win as the first Pakistani helmer to take home an Oscar will reverberate across her home country. She sees herself as an example “of an emanicipated, educated woman who (chose) to return to Pakistan and create change in Pakistan.”

Part of that change, she hopes, will be the resurrection of the once-vibrant film industry that Pakistan had in the 1950s and ’60s. “My generation and a few filmmakers are trying to revive it. I hope this will be an impetus to getting a more flourishing film industry in Pakistan,” she said.

Live-action short

“The Shore”

Terry George and Oorlagh George; an All Ashore production

For father-daughter team Terry and Oorlagh George, “The Shore” represented more than just the Oscar it won for live-action short.

“I hope it’s a reaffirmation that things have changed there,” Terry George said of Ireland, where the film takes place. “I’m going to go back to the little village where we shot this … and then hopefully use it to promote not just the peace process in Northern Ireland but tourism and everything.”

The pair planned to celebrate post-show, but the elder George had more mellow ideas in mind for Monday. “I’m going fishing tomorrow,” he said.