Best picture winner Moonlight director Barry Jenkins and writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, producers Jeremy Kleiner and Adele Romanski were on hand in the pressroom to discuss this remarkable moment in Oscars history. Of course, the producers were at least a little prepared for a Best Picture acceptance speech, though they didn’t necessarily anticipate this outcome. “We might have had a couple ideas [for a Best Picture speech], but I think with what went down, we had to roll with it,” Romanski said. “I felt good about what was said, though I have to admit, it was a fugue state. I don’t remember it.”

Jenkins then took the microphone to address what exactly was on the cards in the two red envelopes that Warren Beatty ended up holding on stage. “I saw two cards. Things just happen. I wanted to see the card, and Warren [Beatty] refused to show the card to anybody before he showed it to me. And he did—he showed the card,” Jenkins recalled. “I felt better about what had happened. I will say, the folks from La La Land were so gracious. I can’t imagine being in their position and having to do that. I was speechless because it was so gracious of them to do that.”

For his part, Kleiner extended his thanks for A24’s contributions to the artistic endeavor, also expressing his hopes about what this outcome will mean for the future of Moonlight, at the box office and beyond. “We didn’t get a chance to thank our courageous distributor, A24,” he said. “This project was the outsider with comps—with the modeling of how a movie should be, in terms of return on investment, and I think this outcome for Moonlight hopefully creates incentives to tell stories like this. That wasn’t far from our minds, as well.”

Casey Affleck
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“While we were waiting, it turned out that we actually won Best Picture. Kenneth Lonergan joked as he and Casey Affleck stepped backstage after scoring Oscars for best original screenplay and best actor respectively. Affleck, although he was a strong frontrunner in this category, shared backstage that he was in shock when he heard his name being called. So much so that his mind went blank and he forgot to thank his kids, which he said, “is something that I will never ever live down.” “That’s probably could’ve been the most meaningful thing I could’ve said. When asked if being a newly minted Oscar winner changed his expectations as an artist, “it only reinforced the idea that if you want to have a good performance, than you better work with good directors and good material… that’s 90% of it.”

Affleck’s win was not only a first for him, but it is the first time brothers have won Oscars in separate categories. Sitting in the audience, Ben Affleck — who has won for Argo and Good Will Hunting, got emotional while watching his younger brother onstage accepting the award.. “I saw those tears and I thought maybe I’m just not making a good speech,” Affleck quipped. He went on to praise brother Ben for paving the road for him. “I’ve learned a lot from him because he’s been through a lot in this business,” he said. “Being underappreciated” and “proving how great he is…It’s been an advantage to watch someone you love and someone you know navigate the tricky, rocky waters of being famous.”

Mahershala Ali
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Moonlight actor Mahershala Ali received his first Oscar tonight for his supporting turn as Miami drug dealer Juan in Barry Jenkin’s film, which was nominated in eight categories, including Best Picture. Arriving backstage, Ali discussed what it means to him to be the first Muslim actor ever to win an Oscar. “Regardless of one’s theology or how you see life or relate to worshipping God, as an artist, my job is the same. It’s to tell the truth and try to connect with these characters,” the actor said. “One’s spiritual practices, I don’t feel like it’s relevant, unless it gives you a way into having more empathy for these people. I’m proud to own that, and I embrace that, but again, I’m just an artist who feels blessed to have the opportunities that I have had, and has tried to do the most with every opportunity that’s come my way.”

Ali touched on the challenges of working on a project that was very personal in its origins, both for director Barry Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who penned the original script. “I think I always want to walk away from any project feeling like the writer, director was pleased with what I had to offer,” he said. “Considering the personal nature of this project, I think there was a need that felt a little heightened to get it truthful, where they could walk away and feel like I really contributed to their film, and didn’t screw it up.”

 

Justin Hurwitz
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Accepting the award for La La Lands Best Original Song win for “City of Stars” were composer and orchestrator Justin Hurwitz, and the Broadway lyricist team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Hurwitz started things off discussing the genesis of his friendship with director Damien Chazelle, and the evolution of their relationship. “I first met him first week of freshman year of college. We started a band together, and we just clicked immediately,” Hurwitz said. “We were friends, we would show each other music, and we became roommates sophomore year. That’s when the friendship really took off, really developing a respect for each other.”

Hurwitz handed the mic over to the lyricists to discuss their “brilliant”, “narrative and beautiful” lyrics for “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” nominated alongside “City of Stars” in the Original Song category. “Originally, Mia was just reading sides. Damien came up with the idea that we should be telling a story,” Paul remembered. “He wrote a beautiful monologue, a version of what that story was. It provided a seed for what the story of the lyrics became.”

Pasek also took a moment to extend thanks and praise to Chazelle, expressing his reverence for the written word. “As lyricists, we get to take some of the best work from screenwriters. We come from the world of Broadway, so we get to gobble it up and turn it into lyrics. We’re very appreciative of that,” he said.

On the subject of his next projects, Hurwitz said, “It’s been three jazz movies with Damien—two musicals and then Whiplash, which is a music driven movie. His next movie will definitely not be a jazz movie or a musical, so I’m looking forward to doing something different.”

“I think it will probably be darker,” he continued, giving a guess at the tone of his next project. “I have such an admiration of Broadway that I would love to figure out how to get into that world, as well. But I think primarily, I’m a film score composer.”

The salesman
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Director Asghar Farhadi wasn’t present to accept the trophy for best foreign film for The Salesman as expected – he announced this ahead of the ceremony in response to President Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries. Instead, he sent two Iranian-American NASA scientists, Firouz Naderi and Anousheh Ansari, to accept the award on his behalf. “He wanted to stand in solidarity with the rest of the people who have been subject of the travel ban,” said Ansari backstage while talking to the press. ‘’It’s a big message he was sending.” Naderi explained that the reason he chose the two as proxies was because of their NASA backgrounds. “When you go away from the earth you don’t see the borders of the earth… you just see one big beautiful earth, said Naderi. Farhadi wanted to “convey that message.”

Zootopia

Well before President Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, “We talked about bias five to six years ago,” said Zootopia Co-director Byron Howard backstage after the win for best animated film. “We didn’t allow the audience to prejudge the character. We wanted the animals there as stand-ins for us. It didn’t matter about your gender or background, (it was about) if you could can find yourself in these animals Aesop knew about this years ago.” Close to a year after its release with a one-billion dollars at the worldwide box office, the filmmakers mentioned the movie’s message of equality and proper treatment to all crossed language barriers with audiences from Belgium to Brazil feeling like Disney made the movie for them. Producer Clark Spencer mentioned that the production consulted Dr. Shakti Butler, a filmmaker who is an educator in the field of diversity and racial equality. “She spoke about the subconscious of bias. Animated films don’t need to be for kids, they can be for everybody, and cause a reason for conversation.”

Colleen Atwood
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Colleen Atwood nabbed her fourth Costume design Oscar for her work in the Harry Potter prequel film Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. As one reporter pointed out backstage, this was the first win for the Harry Potter franchise, which Atwood was shocked by. “There’s so much incredible artistry in the Harry Potter movies.” She opined that maybe it was “because this movie is set in the 1920s which keyed off a different visual sense… but I can’t believe it never won for that incredible clockwork, you know, creation of Stuart Craig’s in the Harry Potter movies. “On the influence drawn from the past Potter films. “I treated it like I had a visual cannon but I was totally set free. It was s different time period, it was a different world, it was in America not England.. the rawness of America at that time was my starting point and my inspiration.”

From director Kristóf Deák, the Hungarian short Sing won out in the Live Action Short Film category, beating out critical favorite Ennemis Interieurs. Set in Budapest in 1991, the short tells the story of an elementary school girl who gets involved with an award-winning school choir. Sing marks the first Oscar nomination and win for Deák and producer Anna Udvardy. “I really have to commend ShortsHD for putting these shorts in cinemas. Right now, almost 600 cinemas are screening them in 20-plus countries, and they get to be seen the way they’re meant to be seen,” the director said, speaking to the feeling of having his Oscar-winning film screening in cinemas. Asked about the surge of awards-winning Hungarian films in the past several years, with Son of Saul taking Best Foreign Language Film just last year, Deák said, “I think the last few years, there’s been a surge in good Hungarian films, and last years winner, Son of Saul, is an amazing film, and fully deserved to win.” “To stand here in their footsteps is really humbling and absolutely amazing,” he continued. “There are more brilliant Hungarian films coming out in the next few years than I know of, and I hope I get to make one of those maybe in two to three years.”