OSCARS: How Michelle Obama's Surprise Appearance Came Together – Video

UPDATED: The Golden Globes got Bill Clinton but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences got First Lady Michelle Obama tonight at the Oscars — in part thanks to Harvey Weinstein. Before the ceremony, the White House was very “hush-hush” about the surprise appearance, according to pool reports Sunday. At tonight’s Oscars, Obama appeared via satellite to help Jack Nicholson introduce the Best Picture category and announce Argo as the winner. Afterward, the Obama staff put out a statement on how it came together: “The Academy Awards approached the First Lady about being a part of the ceremony. As a movie lover, she was honored to present the award and celebrate the artists who inspire us all — especially our young people — with their passion, skill and imagination.”

The idea of getting the First Lady on the show first came from Lily Weinstein, who mentioned it to her big Obama contributor dad Harvey, who suggested it to the Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and Academy president Hawk Koch. The group flew to DC a week and a half ago to put the logistics together with the White House. The Oscar producers told Deadline’s Pete Hammond earlier this week that they “were being like the CIA” about a couple of surprises on the show, keeping things top secret. In towns like Hollywood and DC where people love to talk, they pulled it off. There was no indication on the show’s rundown and most of the people on the Oscars had no idea who the secret guest would be. “I knew we could do it and we did it,” Koch told Deadline tonight about keeping Obama’s name under wraps.

The First Lady was actually handed the envelope with the winner’s name in it by the head of PricewaterhouseCoopers at the White House, where she and President Obama hosted a dinner for the nation’s Governors tonight. Nicholson had a back-up envelope just in case. Check out the First Lady’s Oscar segment here:

Related: Nikki Finke’s Oscar Live Snark

There was a lot of politics in this year’s Oscar race, from Lincoln to Zero Dark Thirty to Best Picture winner Argo. There were also a lot of politicians in this year’s race. On November 14, President Obama hosted a special screening of Steven Spielberg’s film about the 16th President at the White House. Lincoln was seen by the Senate in December. Also in December, a trio of Senators wrote a letter to Sony Pictures’ boss Michael Lynton protesting depictions of torture in Zero Dark Thirty and later began investigating the CIA’s involvement in the making of the film. Argo was of course about the CIA getting Americans out of revolutionary Iran in 1980. And then there was former President Clinton introducing Lincoln at the Golden Globes — not that the movie won that night either.

  1. Like Nikki said in her post, nothing like turning off half of the US population. There was no reason for this (especially in a surprisingly unpolitical night in terms of speeches).

    1. Well actually only 47% of the population turned off their televisions.

      (Yes, Mitt Romney won — ironically — 47.2% of the vote)

      But in all seriousness, come on. As Nikki herself said, how many of you wingnuts were watching The Oscars begin with?? Fox was airing that special report: [b][i]The Daytona Crash and The White House Cover-Up[/i][/b]

      1. Ironically — “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

        As it happens, I was just speaking with someone about irony. What a COINCIDENCE.

      2. Only about 50% of the eligible population voted, so you can’t say for a certainty how many people were “turned off” by Michelle Obama’s appearance. Also, the “wingnuts” as you so politely call them, buy stuff too.
        Personally, as a registered Independent and an American I found Michelle Obama’s appearance — regardless of her husband’s politics — in a show that began with a song about “We saw your boobs” and jokes about orgies at Jack Nicholson’s house — inappropriate. The producers approved a script with that material *knowing* the FLOTUS was appearing at the end? Disgraceful. I’m sure she mistakenly trusted that that kind of crudeness would not be a part of the show, but she bears some responsibility as well — lay down with dogs . . .

    2. I can’t believe that Jack Nicholson agreed to be a prop – it was just sad to watch. He, if anyone, has enough cred to give away an Oscar by himself. The producers should be run out of Hollywood for this debacle.

      1. savvydude: I don’t see why you’re complaining so much. There’s nothing wrong with the First Lady presenting an award at the Oscars. Sure, Jack Nicholson is a good actor, but I wasn’t offended by Michelle Obama presenting the award.

      1. Those aren’t cadets. Those are military officers in full dress uniform, i.e. the military equivalent of black tie and tails.

        1. LOL. That person’s post sounded kind of ignorant. The people surrounded Michelle did look kind of young, though. At least the women, anyways.

          But, they don’t look college young, so I wouldn’t see why HappyDance thought that they were cadets. :D.

        1. That was my thinking precisely. I also thought they must be the 1/2 % that actually voted for obama from the military. She’s not fooling anyone here that they actually can stand our military personnel. Remember there have been an inordinate number of flag officers who were forced out recently. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Anyway it was a shameless use of our good military people. I can’t ever see a self respecting Republican or even Independent military person agreeing to standing up as a prop with her.

  2. sat here through the whole show with our mouth’s agape. Instead, they ABSOLUTELY the worst Oscar show any of us has ever seen

    1. The FLOTUS actually said that the Best Picture nominees were good for ‘young people’. It is no wonder the nation is so screwed up. These Obama camera-hogs are everywhere.

      The Oscars jumped the shark with this stunt. And with the mocking ‘Loser’ song at the end. And the terrible audio. And the stupid dances at the beginning. And by making Capt. Kirk look bored.

  3. our First Lady lowering herself to be a PRESENTER at the Oscars……..wow. what’s next? commercials? A walk on role on 1600 Penn? A turn on Dancing with the Stars perhaps? Wouldn’t be surprised.

      1. Uh huh. Comparing the viewership/profile of the Oscars with an episode of Deal or no deal. Right……
        And I also recall Bush was surprise honoring a decorated veteran on that said episode. so it wasn’t about Bush.

  4. I want to say “tolja” to that half of America that loves and worships them. They are sheep going to the slaughter. This is the famewhore Presidency and it’s embarrassing. Really embarrassing.

    1. Agreed. As someone who voted against the Obama’s it wasn’t too bad a night (considering how things can go) until she came on.

      I did find it ironic the Life of Pie VFX folks got cut off during their spiel about Rhythm and Hues, a wonderful company suffering from the high taxes of CA that their overseas competitors don’t have to face; taxes that will only go higher thanks to most of the people in that room.

    1. He Won. Again. Sit Down, Shut Up and Deal With It!
      – Just About Every Conservative, Nov 2004 – Early 2005

      1. It probably never crossed your mind that some of us voted for Kerry and, uhhhh, “Mr. Edwards” in 2004, and McCain in 2008, and Romney in 2012.

        Plus I don’t recall any other First Lady presenting (more or less) and award in the last however many years. Such tit-for-tat it’s sickening. Doesn’t the FLOTUS have something more important to do?

  5. I love Michelle Obama and am proud to have her as our intelligent and accomplished first lady, but honestly, what the hell was she doing announcing the Best Picture award? It was ridiculous and embarrassing for both Hollywood and for her. Her Mom dance with Jimmy Fallon was great and made sense for her Let’s Move campaign, but really, the Oscars? In that shiny gown? There are so many more qualified and resonant people who could have done that job. Hollywood and Washington keep mixing themselves up with each other.

    1. This. Regardless of your placement on the political spectrum, it was frankly a stunt that didn’t need to be pulled. We live in such a politically polarized environment, it would be nice to at least try and shut it off every now and then.

    2. I’m also a big supporter of the President, but I agree this was awkward and pointless. The Oscars don’t need to “borrow” glamour or prestige, they’re the most coveted award in the entertainment world. Moreover, the people standing behind Ms. Obama made for a very odd background. By putting the First Lady in the show as the most important presenter of the night, you have de facto politicized the show. There’s no need to do this. A real misfire in my opinion.

  6. It was totally inappropriate. I hate when the president and his family get involved in various aspects of American culture to promote positive messages.

    I really hope Obama doesn’t politicize baseball by throwing the first pitch.

  7. Her appearance was as the wife of the Head of State. It wouldn’t turn off half the US population, only the extremists who can’t stand anything Obama-related, which, despite what said extremists think, is not half of the US population. The majority of Americans actually like Michelle, and the majority of voters voted for her husband. If Laura Bush had appeared on the Academy Awards six years ago, I would have considered it neato even though I consider her husband the worst president in history.

    1. Quite simply, there are enough movie stars around to hand out the Biggest Entertainment Award of the Year that it shouldn’t have been delegated to someone in the world of politics. It’s one thing to have someone like Bill Clinton introducing Lincoln at the Globes (and I had no problem with that at all as I know some did), but this simply wasn’t right. If you wanted to have the First Lady on to talk about the importance of the arts, so be it, but handing out the Best Picture winner was shockingly ill-conceived.

      1. Wow. You’ve managed to write six lines without giving any reasons why it was “shockingly ill-conceived” except that she wasn’t a movie star. Jack Nicholson provided that. If you object, at least have some substance to your objection.

        1. I’m not really sure anything else has to be said other than that she really has nothing to do with the entertainment industry. Listen, I’m a Republican and I didn’t “turn off my tv” and I’m sure my fellow Republicans watching didn’t either (although I certainly rolled my eyes), but there simply wasn’t a reason for her to be there in that capacity. Can you explain why the wife of the Head of State should’ve been there? I’m open to hearing the opinion even if I may disagree with it.

          1. Queen Elizabeth II (Britain’s Head of State) appeared at the Olympics, and she has nothing to do with sports. The Oscars are similarly international, if not to the same extent.

            The movies are central to our perception by the rest of the world and one of our biggest exporting industries. To the biggest audience in the world, this appearance shows that our leaders understand the importance of our cultural output.

            For the last 100 years, movies have provided the shared mythology of our nation; they have brought disparate Americans together in a way that nothing else (even sports, which lean to one gender over the other) does. Movies are important in American lives.

            Maybe Michelle Obama isn’t important to the movies, but I think it was completely appropriate for a First Lady to show appreciation for the movies.

            And it was more interesting that just having Jack Nicholson present it, which has gotten old. I was groaning, “Not him again,” when Michelle Obama came on, so it was a nice surprise. And I would have thought it just as neat had it been a Republican First Lady. Actually, I think Nancy Reagan doing it would have been really neat.

            All this complaining about it being inappropriate comes off as a knee-jerk response by people who believe the Obamas can’t do anything right.

          2. I will say that I agree with your notion of Nicholson presenting the award again. Like you, I was disappointed when he stepped on to the stage. Listen, I’m not disgusted by the notion of the First Lady being on the Oscars. The only thing that turned me off a bit was the fact that she presented Best Picture. That’s all. Talk about the arts…fine and good. As mentioned before, Clinton presenting at the Globes was interesting enough. For some reason, her opening the Best Picture envelope rubbed me the wrong way.

          3. The Obama’s was elected by the people and for the people. Why judge them when they serve us in what ever capacity they chose. They are people like you and I, so why not love them regardness of who they are or the position occupied. He is “The President and she is “The First Lady” respect that!!!!

        2. Then again, maybe the producers figured Seth was gonna get ravaged by the reviews and they thought the only way he’d not be the lead story was if they got Mrs. O to present Best Picture. That’ll certainly be the buzz tomorrow now. Whatever, it’s not a surprise that Hollywood went this route. So be it. In the words of an Oscar-winning song, “Que sera sera…”

      2. The choice is not shocking at all. There were 3 films dealing with politics up for the award, why not have someone affiliated with politics present the awards?

    2. What a bunch of BS. If you hated Bush then you would have hated his politicizing the Academy Awards. I don’t hate Obama, I even voted for him the first time, but his wife had no business injecting herself into what should be a non political celebration of the film industry.

  8. Absolutely true. Half the country turning off, honestly? This is a stupid country, but most people are not that ridiculous and hate-filled.

  9. Why must the Obamas insert themselves into everything? Like them or not, it was unnecessary and self-serving. The bully pulpit (and the adoration of the media) isn’t enough… We have to see them during awards shows, or filling out their march madness bracket, or going on late night talk shows, etc, too. Enough already. The north Koreans would be embarrassed at the cult of personality these two are building, and that’s saying something.

  10. Oh good GAWD! Her appearance made no sense at all. Can’t she find something better to do? Eleanor Roosevelt campaigned for equal rights, Betty Ford opened a rehab clinic…the oscars were the last of their concerns. This goes to show the true character of who is in the White House…they are all about looking good and what’s in it for them.

    1. I also feel your frustration that Mrs. Obama isn’t more rigorous in how she is choosing to spend her political capital, but when you began generalizing about her “true character” you immediately lost any rhetorical capital you had. You’re an adult (granted, one who uses the phrase “GAWD”); you don’t have to frame specific disagreements as general oppositions.

  11. Seriously what was the FLOTUS doing promoting on the Oscars
    You would think the Entertainment Industry was the US’s second largest export or something.

  12. I’m a Democrat but I hate Michelle Obama’s guts. She ruined what was the best Oscars show in recent memory. Whoever made that decision is a moron. Seth was terrific though. State of the art perfect.

  13. I began with high hopes.

    I pulled for Seth despite the sinking feeling I began to have.

    I felt myself literally cringing at points and thinking, “Come on, Oscars. You can get it back.”

    Then came the First Lady — wife of the most polarizing President that anyone currently alive has ever experienced.

    Love em or hate em, no one can divide like the Obama’s and whoever came up with that idea needs to serve time in Reality TV.

    1. The most polarizing president that anyone currently alive has ever experienced? I’m currently alive, and that title would go to George W. Bush.

  14. I seem to remember First Lady Betty Ford appearing in a sitcom (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) and presidential candidate Richard Nixon appearing on “Laugh In”.

  15. having a republican response would have been hilarious.

    the loser song would have been great to be part of the response

    maybe next time.

    oh oh, they might have President Obama sing all the selections to the Best Song category. of course, he would be lip-syncing like Beyounce since he wouldn’t have the proper time for a sound check


  16. I am one of that hard working, 2 job middle class, so I was in bed long before this took place. But there is something very Orwellian about the thought having major political figures looming large at an entertainment awards ceremony. Time to go back and read ‘1984’ folks. We are officially living it.

  17. I wonder how much of our tax payer dollars (if any, don’t know) went to set this Obama invasion up at the Oscars? It took me a while to get into this year’s show, but I did. Then, The First Lady, it was totally ruined for me at that point. I will never watch the Oscar’s again.

  18. One thing to be thankful for: we, the taxpayers, don’t have to pay for Airforce Two to fly Michelle & entourage to Hollywood.

  19. I thought you had to member of the academy to open up the envelope! I don’t think she had any buisness of being there.. I don’t think any politician does! Haven’t we had enough of politics for a year.. Jeez!

  20. Like other commentators, I thought yesterday’s Oscar program was brilliantly executed, with amazing production numbers. It was quite evident that the producers were accomplished in the area of musical theatre, so that the entire event had the feel of a Broadway show. The pace was enlivened, and its length was much more easily borne, as were even some off-color remarks by the host, who nevertheless proved himself to be supremely gifted as an entertainer.

    However, the whole was terribly marred by the appearance of the First Lady streamed live from the White House as the presenter of the Best Picture. I kept asking myself, what is the relevance?

    When former President Clinton in person presented a film clip at the Golden Globes, which was a complete surprise to nearly everyone, still, regardless of one’s politics, the relevance was clearly there. In that case, a former United States President who dealt with and triumphed over a contentious Congress was presenting a film clip about a former United States President who dealt with and triumphed over a contentious Congress. Thus, any living American President who could speak first hand of this in such a place would have been very relevant.

    But what does First Lady Michelle Obama have to do with presenting this year’s Best Picture of the Year? The films being considered did not all have political themes, and none of them excepting “Lincoln” had anything to do with First Ladies at all. Therefore, aside from wanting to appear before the world yet again in the role of a fashion statement, why was she being asked to present this year’s Best Picture?

    Of course it then dawned upon me. The decision to have the First Lady streamed live from the White House had nothing whatever to do with motion pictures at all. It had everything to do with some Academy members trying to “best” director Stephen Spielberg. After all, if Mr. Spielberg, one of our nation’s greatest film artists with several classics to his credit, could call upon the favor of former President Bill Clinton to present a film clip about former President Abe Lincoln, what could the anti-Spielberg contingent of the Motion Picture Academy do to “one-up” his political influence? The result was to have First Lady Michelle Obama present this year’s Best Picture as a live-stream from The White House.

    But while the First Lady looked lovely, rather than eliciting the surprised standing ovation that greeted former President Bill Clinton’s live appearance at the Golden Globes, instead, most of the in-house audience at the Oscar ceremony, and those watching all over the world, seemed confused. Even the most passionate of Obama supporters had to wonder what the First Lady has to do specifically with American film that would make her on-camera appearance there, much less as the presenter of the year’s Best Picture, relevant at all.

    As a result, the appearance marred an otherwise innovative program, marked by superb production numbers.

    It would appear now that in the zeal of some Academy members to “one-up” Stephen Spielberg, further “sticking it” to him, they have, in the end, “stuck it” to themselves. Spielberg’s own Hollywood “team of rivals” now just look pity and silly before all the world.

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