Backstage at the Oscars

Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”

While he neglected to single out his Oscar-winning visual effects team in his acceptance speech, Lee shared sentiments for the crew and the craft backstage.

“I think it’s a great, great visual art,” Lee said. “I refuse to think of those people as just technicians.”

Lee described “Pi” as a global experience. “I just feel like this movie really belongs to the world. I’m very happy that I get to share this with people everywhere.

“I think it’s a miracle that I got to make this movie,” he added. “To see how it was played out in the world, it’s all good. And this is very good.”


Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Asked about her fall on the way up the stairs to accept her Oscar, Lawrence quipped, “Was that on purpose? Absolutely.” When a journo asked what happened, she retorted, “What do you mean what happened? Look at my dress.”

Lawrence said the process of preparing for her second trip to the Oscars as a nominee “was so stressful, I felt like Steve Martin in ‘Father of the Bride,’ watching my whole house being torn apart.” As she lapsed into a detailed account of getting dressed, she stopped herself. “I’m sorry, I did a shot before I came in here. Jesus.”

Another reporter asked Lawrence if she thought it was a good thing to have so much success early in her career. “I hope so. I guess we’ll see.” When he followed up by asking if she was worried about peaking too soon, Lawrence cracked up the assembled press by answering: “Well, now I am.”

Popular on Variety


Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”

As a Brit who played an American president, Day-Lewis saw his Oscar win a sort of validation: “If we got it wrong, (it was) quite likely … that I might never be able to show my face in this country again.”

With “Lincoln” officially behind him, Day-Lewis said he was having trouble imagining what he’ll be doing next.

“I need to have a lie-down for the next couple of years after this,” he said.

The thesp also had fun with a question about whether the beard he “was wearing” in the film was uncomfortable.

“What do you mean wearing it? Do you wear your hair? It was just a beard. It was a little bit scratchy now and then, but it was just a beard.”


Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”

Tarantino said that the controversy over “Django Unchained” may have turned out to be a good thing. “One of the things I wanted to do was start a conversation about slavery, to take a 21st-century American and put him in the antebellum south. People have been going back and forth, and that back and forth is really what I wanted for this movie.”

Tarantino also opined that this year’s nominees made him think a 1970s-style renaissance of adult-themed films might be in the offing. “There’s nothing about the subjects (of the best picture nominees) that would suggest they would be commercial or popular. I think an adult audience is rising up. We’re not just making movies for teenagers, especially since I’m not a teenager anymore.”

He also acted out a deleted scene from “Django,” playing both parts and using his best Aussie dialect. The scene explained that his character in “Django” was an indentured servant in the employ of the mining company, with the punchline of the Aussie telling the slave Django: “At least you didn’t have to pay for the boat ride.

“But the movie was too damn long, so I cut it,” he said.


Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth, “Skyfall”

Adele was her usual chatty self backstage after her win for original song, which she shared with co-writer Epworth. “I think I might be going to the Vanity Fair party, but one glass of champagne these days and that’s it.”

With her Oscar win (and nine Grammys), the Brit thrush is halfway toward achieving the coveted EGOT achievement. “Maybe I’ll do an HBO special like Beyonce did,” Adele quipped.

The pair’s time backstage was brief as they had to exit quickly before the announcement of best picture. Still, they had time to address the rumors of the song having been recorded in just 10 minutes. “It was more like 10 studio sessions,” Adele said. “We’re good, but we’re not that good.”


Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”

Waltz appeared flabbergasted backstage, admitting his shock at winning his second Oscar in three years. “It feels like five or seven minutes ago that I first got this,” he said.

Waltz also expressed his awe over being nominated with four other previous Oscar winners: “How do you think someone feels when their name is called in that context?”


Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn, “Searching for Sugar Man”

“Searching for Sugar Man” helmers Bendjelloul and Chinn knew exactly how they’d be celebrating on Sunday night.

“I think we’re going to go to the Vanity Fair party and celebrate with some friends,” Bendjelloul said backstage. “Some are here and some are waiting outside.”

Both filmmakers said musician Sixto Rodriguez, the central subject of “Sugar Man,” was enjoying a revitalized music career because of their doc. But they also pointed out that he didn’t want to take any credit for movie coming to life.

“He doesn’t regard it as his film,” Chinn said. “He’s genuinely a humble man and he wanted to stay at home in Detroit and watch on television.”


Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Westenhofer, lead visual effects supervisor on “Life of Pi” and a staffer at bankrupt vfx house Rhythm & Hues Studios, was drowned out by the the orchestra when he tried to address the plight of his industry onstage. So Westenhofer took the occasion backstage to repeat what he’d tried to say.

“The visual effects business is definitely in a challenging position right now,” he said. “We’re not technicians, we’re artists. And I’m concerned that if we don’t find a new business model, we’re going to lose some of the artistry.” But asked for their reaction to being played off so abruptly, Westenhofer and the other three honorees on his team demurred.


Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers, “Skyfall”
Paul N.J. Ottosson, “Zero Dark Thirty”

“Just before they called our category, I was talking to another nominee and I said ‘What if there’s a tie,'” said sound editor Ottosson, who tied for the Oscar with the “Skyfall” team of Hallberg and Landers. “It was quite extraordinary.”

Ottosson said he enjoyed working with “Zero Dark Thirty” helmer Kathryn Bigelow because “we keep getting these,” indicating his Oscar. (Ottosson also took home a prize for “The Hurt Locker.”)

“It’s always fun to make history, and Paul (Ottosson) is a very good friend of ours,” said Hallberg. Landers added, “Any time you win an Oscar, that’s OK, no matter how you do it.”

Landers, who previously won for “The Bourne Ultimatum,” is one of the few women at the top of the sound field. “I don’t think about it that much until I get asked the question,” she said, “but it’s really an honor to represent women in the industry, so it means a lot to me.”


Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes, “Les Miserables”

The live singing done on “Les Miserables” was a hot topic for journos backstage, asking the winning trio about their uniquely difficult work. “It’s always especially hard to record vocals on set,” said Hayes. “There are so many noises to cut through and marry the vocals to the music.”

Nelson furthered the discussion of the pic’s live singing and the challenges that posed. “When a musical is sung through its entirety, it’s very hard to go from song to song without breaking the mold of the movie.”

Paterson added, “In the real world, people don’t break into song, so it was a challenge to integrate the real world into the performances.”


William Goldenberg, “Argo”

For Goldenberg, the road to Oscar began at his father’s deli.

“You had to do a million things at one time. You had to be making breakfast for 75 different people … It really does prepare you for the multitasking it takes to run an editing room,” he said.

The editor, who was also nominated for “Zero Dark Thirty” on Sunday night, praised “Argo” producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov for doing what good producers do best: standing back.

“They came in and said really smart things at the right times and really guided us, the way great producers do,” he said. “They stood back and looked at the overall.”

Goldenberg added that he drew on pics including “All the Presidents’ Men,” “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” and “Network” to get “Argo’s” ’70s look and feel just right. “But when I was cutting, I was really just trying to tell a great story.”


Rick Carter and Jim Erickson, “Lincoln”

Carter’s first move backstage was to acknowledge who was missing.

“(Set designer) Jim Erickson should be here and shares this honor,” Carter said of his partner on “Lincoln,” who didn’t make it backstage.

Carter had been working on “Lincoln” as far back as 2001.

“At first it was a broad canvas and then it was narrowed over time to be reflective of the last three months of Lincoln’s life,” he said.

Carter is no stranger to the Oscar stage, having won a statue for 2009’s “Avatar.”

“Each time it’s different,” he said. “We never know what we’re doing and that’s what makes it great.”


Claudio Miranda, “Life of Pi”

“I thought this movie was going to be smaller,” Miranda admitted. “But we were given a lot of support from the studio.”

The lenser expressed gratitude toward helmer Ang Lee: “My favorite thing is to work with a director and (have us) push each other further and further. I feel like we both created something special.”


Jacqueline Durran, “Anna Karenina”

Durran credited “Anna Karenina” helmer Joe Wright and star Keira Knightly, in particular, for making her designs work in the film. “The brief that the director gave me was to concentrate always on silhouette and color,” she said, before adding that the actors are “the ones to make the look live.”

Durran said she revisited the classic novel as an adult. “I was absolutely amazed by it because I thought Tolstoy was able to encapsulate every human emotion.”


Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell, “Les Miserables”

The combination of hair and makeup into one category, a new development this year, seemed an entirely logical decision for Westcott and Dartnell.

“In England, the very nature of the job is to create characters,” Westcott said. “For me, I would never just do one or the other. Those two elements tie together.”

Dartnell said live singing in “Les Miserables” was a challenge: “Since all the songs were done in their entirety, usually with about eight cameras, you can’t go back and rectify it.”

How is the pair going to celebrate? With champagne, of course. “This boy needs a tad wetting,” Westcott joked, holding her Oscar.


Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, “Brave”

“The film actually took eight years from beginning to end. I can talk about the beginning of it; Mark can talk about the end,” Chapman said, alluding to the directorial shuffle on “Brave.” “I was a year in a room by myself, coming up with the basic story.”

“The thing that I loved about Brenda’s story was the thing that everybody loved about Brenda’s story, and I wanted to honor that,” Andrews said.

“Which I feel very much that he did,” Chapman said. “He has a love of Scotland as well. I wasn’t sure about his fairy-tale sensibility,” she joked.


John Kahrs, “Paperman”

“I forgot to thank my parents, so Mom and Dad, thank you!,” said a chagrined Kahrs backstage. “I’ve been trying to call them, but I got a busy signal. When was the last time anybody got a busy signal? It’s because they live way out in Vermont. There are more cows than people.”

Kahrs’ pic combines hand-drawn and CG animation in a new way. “I’m really gratified by this and the acceptance of the audience to really look at that technique and that way of seeing animation and letting the story wash over them.” He also thanked Mouse House toon topper John Lasseter for putting shorts in front of features. “(That’s) the best placement for it. I’m fortunate to be riding on the coattails of ‘Wreck-It Ralph.'”


Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, “Inocente”

Sean Fine said he and his wife, fellow helmer Andrea Nix Fine, weren’t too nervous at first. “We were nominated once before, in 2008,” he explained, “but as it got closer to the award, the butterflies started because we’re married. I still have nail marks on my hand from her gripping my hand. But the best part was being able to have Inocente (the film’s subject) there with us, to show the world that homeless kids can have a voice. It’s so great the Academy can make that happen.”

The pair showed more excitement, though, when a Washington, D.C.-based reporter asked them a question about the Redskins. “No pressure, no diamonds!” they exclaimed, shouting “RGIII” (in honor of the Washington QB) even as they were leaving the podium.


Shawn Christensen, “Curfew”

Asked what he hoped winning an Oscar would get him, Christensen answered, “I’d love to get a job. That would be the first thing it would be nice to get.

“I’m thinking of all my friends and family right now,” he went on. “I’m thinking about hugging them … and giving them a call and thanking them for all of their support.”

More Awards

  • Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile -

    Tanya Tucker Wins First Grammys, 47 Years After First Nomination

    Country music legend Tanya Tucker picked up her first two wins at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The 61-year-old singer won for best country song for “Bring My Flowers Now” and best country album for “While I’m Livin’.” “After 50 years in this business, I have a [...]

  • I Prevail

    How the Band I Prevail Did Just That, Heading Into Grammys With Two Rock Nominations

    The Grammys and metal have never had the easiest relationship. For every worthy win in the best metal performance category (Megadeth in 2017; 2018’s Mastodon) comes the questionable (Tenacious D in 2015; 1989’s still haunting Jethro Tull victory). Though relatively unknown beyond a rabid fan base, list I Prevail in the “worthy” category of nominees [...]

  • Little Women Movie

    'Little Women,' 'Fleabag' Win USC Scripter Awards

    Greta Gerwig’s script for “Little Women” has won the USC Libraries Scripter Award for best movie adaptation and “Fleabag” has taken the television award. The winners were announced Saturday night at USC’s Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library. “Little Women” topped “Dark Waters,” “The Irishman,” “Jojo Rabbit,” and “The Two Popes.” All but environmental drama [...]

  • Netflix backed animated films “Klaus,” left,

    'Klaus,' 'I Lost My Body' Top 47th Annie Awards as Netflix Dominates

    Netflix dominated the 47th Annie Awards on Saturday, Jan. 25, picking up 19 trophies, including the top prizes of best feature (“Klaus”), best feature-independent (“I Lost My Body”), best TV/media production for preschool children (“Ask the Storybots”) and best general audience TV/media production (“BoJack Horseman”). Disney TV Animation’s “Disney Mickey Mouse” won best TV/media production [...]

  • Sam Mendes poses on the red

    Sam Mendes Wins Top DGA Award for '1917'

    Director Sam Mendes won the top prize at the 72nd annual Directors Guild of America Awards for “1917,” solidifying the World War I drama as the film to beat at the Academy Awards. “I was fortunate enough to win this award two decades ago,” Mendes said in his acceptance speech, referencing his DGA Awards win [...]

  • Pain and Glory

    Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Pain and Glory’ Sweeps Spanish Academy Goya Awards

    MADRID — Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory” took home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Antonio Banderas) and Best Original Screenplay at the 34th Spanish Academy Goya Awards, as well as Best Editing, Original Music and Supporting Actress (Julieta Serrano). Almodóvar’s night did have one blemish, however. On the red carpet ahead of the ceremony [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho 'Parasite' Director

    Listen: Who Will Take Home the Oscars for Best Director and Picture?

    The Oscars are just two weeks away, so it’s time to start making final predictions about who is going to win. On this week’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, I invited the magazine’s deputy awards and features editor (and my “Pick of the Week” co-host) Jenelle Riley onto the show [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content