OSCARS: Backstage At Academy Awards: 'Artist' Producer On Movie's Color Version, 'Artist' Director On His Next Project & More

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After his success with a silent film, how does French actor Jean Dujardin plan to transition back to talkies? “I’m not an American actor, I’m French,” the Best Actor winner said tonight backstage at the Academy Awards. “If I could make another silent movie in America, I would. But I’ll always be a French actor in America. Nonetheless, there are a few ideas I would like to develop.” Dujardin admitted that in the French portion of his acceptance speech he dropped the equivalent of the F-bomb.“I said thank you so much! It was amazing … uh, yeah, I guess I said that.” And as far as the whereabouts of his four-legged co-star Uggie, “He went to bed already,” Dujardin said.

“H-i-i-i-i-i,” drawled Meryl Streep when she finally showed up in the press room long after the show was over to talk about her Best Actress win for The Iron Lady. She was immediately asked to address her self-deprecating comments during her acceptance speech: “When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, ‘Oh no. Oh, come on. Why her? Again?” Streep acknowledged she thinks she may be “pushing the tolerance” of the Academy and the fans after 17 nominations and three wins. “I understand ‘Streep Fatigue,’ I really do,” she later said. “Frankly, I’m surprised it didn’t override this tonight.” But getting another Oscar was thrilling, Streep said, adding that she might take a nip of whiskey like Thatcher to celebrate. “I thought I was so old and jaded, but they call your name and you just sort of go into a white light. I was like a kid again,” she said, joking that two of her fellow nominees “were not even conceived” when she won her first Oscar. She also said she was excited by the win of her Iron Lady makeup artists earlier in the evening “not for making a monster, but for making a human being.” Streep confirmed that she wore Ferragamo shoes, Margaret Thatcher’s favorite, to get into character. She did not meet Thatcher, noting, “the challenge was to imagine her present life.” Streep was asked how it felt to see herself for the first time in makeup as Thatcher.  She said the change was so gradual there was no shock, but one thing was unnerving. “When we first had the old age makeup on, I saw my Dad. Maybe my Dad looked like Margaret Thatcher.”

By the time The Artist producer Thomas Langmann made his way backstage, there wasn’t much left to say about how très excited the cast, producers and creative team were about the film’s endless stream of awards culminating in a Best Picture Oscar. Langmann was asked about an earlier backstage comment by Artist costume designer Mark Bridges that the black-and-white film had been shot in color in case they were unable to sell it in black and white in some markets. Asked if he had any plans for that color footage, Langmann replied cheerfully, “No. Sorry, but no.” He spoke about producer Harvey Weinstein. “Harvey has been really good to us,” Langmann said. “I asked him to come a month before Cannes with a director and cast he’d barely heard of. But he came. I stayed in the screening room to see if everything was OK. He loved the movie and was laughing throughout.  I saw in his eyes and attitude that he cared for the movie. He believed that we could possibly be here today. He’s the only distributor who could take this movie here today.” Weinstein was not The Artist‘s only good luck charm — Langmann acknowledged that he had a lucky coin in his pocket given to him by his daughter. As for the possible impact from the success of The Artist, the first silent movie to win a best picture Oscar since the first Academy Awards ceremony 83 years ago, “if The Artist can help another producer be audacious, this is a great thing,” Langmann said. “I’ve shown this movie to kids. Some had never seen a black-and-white movie and after five-10 minutes, they enjoyed it. Silence is a way of telling a story. It’s an experience and maybe it’s as great as a 3D experience.”

Calling The Artist an easy project to work on, Best Director winner Michel Hazanavicius said that there was a “good connection” between the cast and crew on the film that was shot in Los Angeles. Asked about his favorite silent films, Hazanavicius said they were too many but made special mention of such American titles as Sunrise (1927), City Girl (1930) and The Crowd (1928). “Underworld and anything from Charlie Chaplin is great,” he said. Of course, Billy Wilder received special recognition. Hazanavicius thanked him three times from the stage at the ceremony and did so again backstage. “Yes, I thanked Billy Wilder three times because I had to make it short,” he said. “I could thank him a thousand times. He’s the the soul of Hollywood.” Hinting about his next project, Hazanavicius said he wants to do a modern version of Fred Zinnemann’s The Search, which starred Montgomery Clift. The 1948 version of the film was set in post-war Berlin, where an American private helps a lost Czech boy find his mother. “It will be a modern movie set today and [my wife and Artist co-star] Bérénice Bejo will be in it.” Hazanavicius added that The Artist has given him the opportunity to make contacts in Hollywood. “I hope to make a movie here again,” he said. “But I also have a wonderful producer who is French, and I want to work with him again; if you have a wonderful producer you stick with that person.”

Eight years after he won his first Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Sideways with longtime writing partner Jim Taylor, The Descendants director Alexander Payne repeated in the category with new collaborators, the Groundlings’ Jim Rash and Nat Faxon. Rash and Faxon had a stab at the first draft before Payne completely rewrote it for production. “They paved a way for me through the book,” Payne said. “Their draft focused more on the younger daughter and I was more interested in the father’s relationship with the older daughter.” Said Rash, “Alexander told us to put the book aside so that we can understand the character of Matt King (played by George Clooney) better. Let the scenes carry us through.” Rash, co-star on NBC’s cult comedy series Community, said he’s going to use his Oscar as leverage in getting the network brass to renew Community. “I’m going to take this into their offices,” he said. “Perhaps this will help with Season 4.” Payne, who is prepping a father-son road movie that takes place in his home state of Nebraska, revealed that he’s “having trouble casting it.” It took him some nine months to cast The Descendants.

The word I want to use I can’t right now, it’s ‘Fan-f’ing-tastic,’ ” Best Supporting Actress winner Octavia Spencer said backstage. “Taking the microphone, The Help co-star did a quick impromptu song crooning, “I was an Oscar nominee, but now I’m a winner. …” She said that she and fellow cast members Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain and Emma Stone checked their egos at the door before shooting began, calling it a rarity. “This will be one evening in my life I’ll never forget,” Spencer said. “I hope it inspires more young women to act, and especially women of color.” Looking to her future, Spencer said she wants to try her hand at producing as well as other roles. “I want to have a presence both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. I want to be a jack of all trades and be decent with at least one of them.”

William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg exulted backstage over the fact that their Shreveport, La., studio, Moonbot, was able to make a splash at the Academy Awards with a Best Animated Short Film win for The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore. The Oscar will “serve as a calling card for our company” and show “what we’re capable of in Shreveport, Louisiana,” said Oldenburg. Added Joyce, “From the swampy ponds of Louisiana, we have crawled forth.” The duo’s ultimate goal is “to do a movie,” they said.

“It seemed to come very well,” exclaimed Flight Of The ConchordsBret McKenzie about winning a Best Song Oscar without his Conchords’ half Jemaine Clement. “Man or Muppet” sprung from McKenzie’s love of melodramatic power ballads, such as Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”, ditties for which he is largely known with Conchords. “It’s one of the more successful songs in the movie because it arrives at a turning point when the characters must decide whether they are men or muppets,” McKenzie said. When he started writing the song, a friend told him “you’ll never write another “Rainbow Connection”. As memorable as that song from 1979’s The Muppet Movie was, it got an Oscar nomination but didn’t win. “Man Or Muppet” did.

Backstage, director Terry George and his daughter Oorlagh George called their Best Live-Action Short Film win for The Shore a tribute to, as Oorlagh George put it, “a little film about reconciliation.” The Irish film tells the story of two brothers reunited after a 25-year misunderstanding related to Ireland’s tumultuous past. When asked how they planned to celebrate, Terry George said, “I’m going back to the little village where they shot this; I’ll return with the Oscar” to promote peace and as a reaffirmation that “things have changed there.” On a lighter note, the duo’s comments backstage were interrupted by the boisterous press room reaction to the onstage Best Actor win for The Artist’s Jean Dujardin. “Surprise, surprise,” joked Terry George, adding that Dujardin deserved it.

“This film proves that Pakistani women such as myself who are emancipated and educated, can return and give back to Pakistan,” Best Documentary Short Subject winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy said of her film Saving Face. “People such as myself need to go back to create change in Pakistan. In the ’50s and ’60s, Pakistan had a vibrant film industry, and filmmakers are trying to revive it. This Oscar will be an impetus for (that). This win also reinforces the fact that you can work anywhere; that the Academy values work from across the world and not just North America.”

Christopher Plummer, announced during the show as the oldest actor ever to get an Oscar, was quick to point out backstage that at 82 he is not the oldest Academy Award winner. Charlie Chaplin, who received an Oscar in 1972, was actually the oldest, he said. “It was an honorary Oscar, but it’s still an Oscar,” said Plummer. He called the statuette “the creme on top” of his career, adding: “It’s lovely to be accepted. I don’t pretend to not want awards, though I can’t keep up. They’re inventing a new one every day.” In Beginners, Plummer plays an elderly father who comes out of the closet after his wife of 45 years dies. Asked about a perceived double standard that straight actors are able to play a gay character and win praise, while gay actors do not have the same acceptance, Plummer said he didn’t see any difference. “I think actors are universally the same, gay or straight,” he said. “The gay actor can play a straight guy beautifully.” Plummer said his win was a “renewal” for him and that he hoped to continue acting for another decade. “I’ll drop dead on the set. We don’t retire in our profession,” he said. When awkwardly asked if he “loved” his Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Plummer responded with a joke, referencing his character in Beginners. “If the Oscar is gay, of course I love it.”

French composer Ludovic Bource, whose resume only includes a couple of French features, won the second statuette for Oscar frontrunner The Artist. With the help of a translator backstage, he said, The first scoring award I won on this film was at the European Awards which is a female trophy. When I took it home, my little boy said, ‘Papa now you need to bring me the man trophy, so they can kiss each other.’ ” Asked about his style, Bource simply said, “Music is the character of the movie. All the work I did on the film is a homage to American Cinema.”

After their win for Best Visual Effects, the Hugo team of Rob Legato, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning (co-winner Joss Williams did not come backstage) celebrated their triumph over nominated movies with more in-your-face technical wizardry, including Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. For the 3D Hugo, the VFX artists said they blended state-of-the-art technology with the type of simple but effective techniques used by the movie’s real-life subject, French illusionist and filmmaker Georges Méliès, who worked in the late 1800s and early 1900s. “Our [visual effects work] does not stick out, but assists and becomes part of the art form, “ Legato said. “We were judged on the merits of art as much as technology.”

Best Animated Feature winner Rango was made outside the studio system, and the key to getting it made was simply “Johnny Depp,” director-producer Gore Verbinski said of his animated debut. “Once he was in, things started to happen. We went to (producer) Graham King and for the first 18 months, (writer) John Logan and I just worked out of our houses.” Directing live-action and animated films are “two different hats,” Verbinski said. “Sure, underneath there’s a story you want to tell, but there are no gifts in animation. You have to fabricate everything, even the anomalies.” One of the methods Verbinski employed in directing Rango was taking his voice-over actors outside the sound booth and having them actually act out their parts in a studio. “I don’t know any other way of directing actors,” said the director, “By doing it this way, it felt like the action was occurring. We could encourage line overlaps and the actors were out of breath. We didn’t want the computer (animation) to make this clinical. Johnny was always about finding something which was unrehearsed.”

Best Sound Editing winners Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty brought the celebration to the press room. Stockton drank champagne while fielding questions, and Gearty blurted out, “Sound is good. …” The duo noted that “a lot of technical skills” went into Hugo, which picked up a number of tech awards tonight, but expressed disappointment that no actors from the movie were nominated. Asked if they had considered an Oscar nomination when they started the project, they responded simply “Yes,” adding, “When you work on a film with Martin Scorsese, you can reasonably expect an Oscar nomination.”

Undefeated director TJ Martin apologized backstage for dropping the F-bomb while accepting the Oscar for Best Documentary along with co-directors Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas. “It wasn’t the classiest thing I’ve ever done, however that being said, it does come from the heart.” The trio lamented that they weren’t able to give thanks to the city of Memphis where their film is set, saying that their verbal flub distracted them from giving the city its due attention. “Our core focus was to dedicate the award to Memphis and the people who were featured in this film,” said Martin. Added Lindsay, “If they hadn’t trusted us to make this film, we literally wouldn’t be standing here now. It was heartbreaking that they cut us off because that was the main message we wanted to get across.” Asked how their win would change things, Lindsay joked that they would “possibly get a job now,” but said they really only want to tell good stories whether they’re nonfiction or narrative. Not joining them on the press stage was the film’s executive producer Sean “P.Diddy” Combs. who hung back to the side.

Backstage after their Best Sound Mixing win for Hugo, Tom Fleischman and John Midgely said they were overjoyed and shocked when the film racked up another nod in a technical category, the film’s third. But Fleischman joked, “I was a bit scared when we won the first two,” meaning he feared that three just might not be the charm this time around. It was.

After collecting a Best Editing Oscar last year for The Social Network, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall were gobsmacked by their repeat win for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, especially after the ACE Eddies lauded Kevin Tent from The Descendants for best drama editing and Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion of The Artist for best comedy/musical editing. “We’re flabbergasted by this,” said Baxter. “There were movies in the award season that had momentum and ours wasn’t really (one of them). This is an absurd place to be standing.” The difference between editing Social Network and Dragon Tattoo, both directed by David Fincher, was “length,” said Baxter. Added Wall, “Social Network came to us as a movie, but this film was coming from a book. The screenplay was so much longer than Social Network.” In terms of differentiating the film from the Swedish original, Baxter asserted “The original (Dragon Tattoo) film was irrelevant to us. It didn’t matter if 10 films came before this one, we’re used to working with David.”

“I’m very happy about this award and I think the Iranian people are also very happy and this is what really matters to me,” A Separation director Asghar Farhadi said following his win for Best Foreign Language Film. Farhadi adds Oscar to his Golden Globe win and yesterday’s Spirit Award for the film about a couple who must choose between the chance for a better life abroad or staying in Iran to look after a parent in declining health. “Even though this is a local film, people around the world can relate to this story. What happens in this film isn’t specific to a region. It’s understandable in America and Australia for instance,” he said. As he did at the Golden Globes last month, Farhadi stayed clear of commenting directly on politics. “I have nothing to say to the two governments,” he said. “What this film is communicating is for people.”

Backstage, Best Makeup winners Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland said the two most difficult things about transforming Meryl Streep into the Iron Lady were money and time. The portion of the movie’s modest, just-under-$14 million budget earmarked for makeup was not enough for the many hours of painstaking and elaborate work needed, the pair said. The answer to the challenge, Helland said, was to “work fast and have an actor who will sit absolutely still for two and a half hours.” It took about half an hour to do the nose prosthetic for Thatcher in her 40s and 50s, and about three hours to do the full old-age makeup. Asked about his longtime relationship with Streep, Helland said: “A long time ago, I got my best lesson in makeup: Someone said ‘don’t paint what you see, paint what you want.’ ” For Streep’s transformation in The Iron Lady, the key was “not covering up Meryl Streep completely, not trying too hard to make her look like Margaret Thatcher, just picking out elements, leaving her the freedom to still move and express and emote and act,” Coulier said. He joked that while it is an honor to win an Oscar, “you may never work again, because people think you are going to be too expensive.”

Asked whether there were any film references he used as an inspiration, Best Costume Design winner Mark Bridges (The Artist) mentioned Marion Davies’ Show People (1928) as well as Our Dancing Daughters (1928) and City Girl (1930). “They were important touchstones for us,” said Bridges, adding that The Artist was actually done in color because there was a possibility it would screen in color in some markets. “I was concerned with the graphics and separating the actors from the backgrounds,” he said. Winning an Oscar “was a life long dream come true,” Bridges said. “I spent my childhood where the winters are long and the movies were my great escape and it was great that I could do a movie that is a love letter to Hollywood.”

Dante Ferretti, who turned 69 today, received a great birthday gift in his third Art Direction Oscar for Hugo following wins for 2004’s The Aviator and 2007’s Sweeney Todd. He shared the three Oscars with his wife, Francesca Lo Schiavo. After answering the first question in Italian without a translator, the duo switched to English. Hugo, Ferretti’s eighth movie with Martin Scorsese, was originally supposed to be in 2D before a decision was made to add a dimension. “We did a lot of research for making a film in 3D,” Ferretti said. “What was key was that you could never make (the sets) too exaggerated. When you’re sitting in the movie theater, you need to feel that you’re inside the screen.”

Robert Richardson, the night’s first winner — Best Cinematography for Hugo — joked onstage, “I can’t believe somebody put cinematography first, it can only go up from this point.” Backstage, he was similarly self-effacing, saying that “the fear factor” of going onstage caused him to make the comment. “Cinematographers, we’re behind the lens, we’re not in front of the lens, that made it a little complex for me to walk up there,” he said. He bristled slightly at a question about working on a film that was dominated by “green screen,” saying  “there was not as much green screen as there was design,” adding that Hugo director Martin Scorsese “would not take well to that question.” He was also asked about the future of 3D film, and called it limitless: “I don’t think there is an end” as long as it is used as a tool, not a gimmick. This is his third Oscar win for cinematography after 1991’s JFK and 2004’s The Aviator, the latter also directed by Scorsese.

(Photos: Getty Images)

  1. Your article highlighs about 31 men and 3 women. Would have been a much more interesting article to have been able to read more indepth about some more of the women who won or were associated with the Oscars. Appreciate the article’s effort though.

  2. “if The Artist can help another producer be audacious, this is a great thing,” Langmann said. “I’ve shown this movie to kids. Some had never seen a black-and-white movie and after five-10 minutes, they enjoyed it. Silence is a way of telling a story. It’s an experience and maybe it’s as great as a 3D experience.”

    Oh, God, NO. Please, Hollywood, don’t get hooked on silent movies like you did with 3D (I don’t think anyone there is THAT stupid, but you never know).

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