Backstage At The Oscars
The press corps got three doses of Alejandro Inarritu as screenwriter, director and producer winner. Hands flew up like an auction house, and similar to 2012 when The Artist won and French was the lingua franca of the room, Spanish dominated the Q&A between reporters and Inarritu. “It’s so good, it feels like Mexico, I haven’t spoken English yet,” said the filmmaker.
Why did Inarritu make an absurdist film about a cynical actor’s suicidal psyche? “I still don’t know why I did what I did,” said Inarritu, “When you lose fear – fear is the condom of life – it doesn’t allow you to enjoy things. I did away with fear and the result was making love for sure.”
“The bane of Latin American writers are in this film,” said the filmmaker citing Hispanic writers such as Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes. In regards to why Inarritu won this time and lost back in 2007 with the epic geo-political drama Babel, the filmmaker said that with the Oscars, “There’s no logic in all of this.”
When the screenwriters boarded the stage with Inarritu, Alexander Dinelaris explained that when the filmmaker recruited them he only had shards of an idea.
“He didn’t allow us to control the dialogue. Whatever we wrote, wound up on screen. You couldn’t edit us in the editing room or on set. It was a challenge to let go and give in to the chaos.”
While superhero films are being sent-up in the film, Dinelaris explained that the writers were just riffing off a cinema genre that was popular at the moment. What Birdman is really about is “the ego of actors and critics; it was about what makes us human.”
In regards to getting Fox Searchlight on board with the film, Inarritu quipped, “Like a Mexican, I showed them my gun…Everything sounded so risky. It’s a horrible mentality in the film industry, but no one could see the light at the end of the tunnel for this, but Fox Searchlight were smart guys. They trusted me and it was incredible.”
“I wasn’t trying to be flashy,” said Inarritu regarding his ambitious style to edit Birdman as one long tracking shot, “My intention was that the audience shouldn’t notice this. I wanted people to be caught in the emotional journey.”
Inarritu is currently in production on the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Revenant about frontiersman, Hugh Glass, who in the 1820s set out on a path of revenge against those who left him for dead after a bear attack. So will we see him back at the Oscars next year. Said Inarritu’s Birdman producer James Skotchdopole, “We would love that.”
A clearly excited Eddie Redmayne spoke fast, real fast, backstage. He also toyed a bit with his Oscar statuette. At one point he teasingly cradled it like a baby. At another point —perhaps unwittingly — he scratched his head with it. Redmayne said that accepting the award onstage was made even more exciting because of presenter Cate Blanchett, whom he had worked with on other films. But it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as it had been the last time he was at Oscar: Redmayne wasn’t nominated, but had to sing in a musical from Les Miserables “in front of 3 million people.” What’s up for the next 10 years? “I wish I could say there was a plan. To be totally honest, I’ve never really had much choice,” the actor confessed. “I’ve had to fight for jobs. Retaining employment would make me very happy.”
Anything left that you haven’t heard Julianne Moore say during this long awards season? Well, she told a little story backstage: As she has said before, her husband was the first person to see Still Alice, which moved him to tears. But she spilled a secret: she was incredulous when he also said: “You’re going to win an Oscar.” Aaaawww. At the end of the day, Moore says, “It’s the work,” not the awards.
Emmanuel Lubezki has been aboard and executed with great visual flair some ambitious films including last year’s Gravity for which he won an Oscar, as well as Terence Malick’s New World and Tree Of Life. It was Lubezki’s avant garde idea to shoot the story of Pocahontas on Malick’s New World in natural light. However, when it came to shooting Birdman with long continuous shots, that was director Alejandro Inarritu’s idea. “At first I told him I wasn’t interested, it sounded like a nightmare! But then he talked about the characters and why it had to be one shot. He captivated me. It was complex and hard; there’s no book on how to do it, but I have to say that the style was because Alejandro is a strong, curious artist.” “The style didn’t come from me, it comes from the script, the director and the locations where we shoot.” Next to Gravity, Birdman “was the hardest movie I worked on. The fact that the shots were long and we weren’t doing coverage brought energy to the movie and made the acting more powerful. Alejandro wanted to immerse the audience in the story. It made the actors do their best. When you do coverage for a film, you do a wide shot of an actor, and they give 70%, but when you do a close up, they give 100%. They knew most of the shots were going to be in the movie, so they gave it their all.”
Backstage, Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette was asked about her well-received acceptance speech and if she saw Meryl Streep’s reaction from the audience. Arquette said she didn’t, but that she was told about and it and saw Streep backstage. “I hugged Meryl (Streep) afterwards and she’s the queen, she’s the patron saint of all actresses,” Arquette said. “It’s inexcusable that we go around the world talking about equal rights for women around the country and we don’t have equal rights for women in America. When they wrote the Constitution, they didn’t intend for us to be equal. It’s time for all the women, all the men who love women, all the gay people and people of color, who we fought for equal rights for, to fight for us.” At this, Arquette received more thunderous applause among the press corps. “We need federal laws that are comprehensive. People thinnk we have equal rights and we won’t until we pass the ERA once and for all. Until then we won’t have anything change. People talk about the ‘mani-cam.’ They ask, ‘Who are you wearing?’ Who am I wearing? I’m wearing a dress my best friend designed. And now look at us. We run a charitable organization together. Instead of getting a manicure for the dreaded ‘mani-cam,’ I was looking for pictures for our charitable organization, Good Love. This is who I am. I love my business. I never saw this moment, I never thought I would win an Academy Award or get nominated. And I was OK with that. But you know what I did see, I saw myself helping others. And I have helped thousands and thousands of people. I have and I will.”
It was one of J.K. Simmons‘ most poignant moments at an award show this season, reflecting on the working actor’s life. The character actor was greeted with a huge round of applause backstage on par with the one he received when he took the stage tonight. “I think more people saw me tonight than they do in the (Farmers) commercials. I know more people see me in the commercials then they do in the film.” Asked if he ever considered getting ‘back on the bus’, Simmons modestly responded, “A handful of times…if I had reasonable options for employment. I read a romantic book when I was in college, which had the message that if you’re in any kind of creative endeavor, and you feel there’s something else you can do for a living , you’re likely to find comfort and happiness there.” Simmons spoke about his lean times as a regional stage actor, before he had a family as a “wonderful part of life”. When asked about Academy voters fascination with his acerbic music instructor Fletcher from Whiplash, Simmons commented on the character’s appeal with, “I think there’s much to admire in his passion for art, in this case jazz music.”
Backstage, Graham Moore, winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Imitation Game, was asked about any sense of responsibility he felt in telling the story of such a pivotal time in Alan Turing’s life. “When you’re approaching a story of this magnitude, about a person as unique as Alan Turing, there’s tremendous responsible to tell this story accurately,” Moore said. “Alan was so mistreated by history. As such, I always felt like he needed a film that celebrated him and brought his story to a broader audience.”
As for the emotional and very private revelation in his acceptance speech, in which he admitted that at 16 years old he tried to kill himself, Moore said the moment, “was really hard. But I’m a writer, when am I ever going to be on television? I might as well use it to say something useful.” He later expanded, admitting, “Depression is something I have dealt with every day of my life since (I was a teenager). I have a family who was supportive then and is supportive now. I’m very aware of how lucky I am.”
As for how Moore succeeded in making The Imitation Game a well-paced thriller, he joked: “All wartime thrillers should be about mathematicians because they’re so thrilling, right? We wanted to recreate Alan Turing’s subjective experience of the war. What did the process of code breaking feel like to him? (He) was 27 years old when he got to Bletchley Park. He was working along the highest levels of MI6. Ian Fleming, literally, was working alongside him. So Alan Turing was working inside a James Bond movie. Alan would’ve experienced it as a thriller, this story of discovery and struggle as he would’ve experienced it.”
In previous accounts, Moore said his agents discouraged him from writing The Imitation Game. But Moore obviously knew more than they did about the appeal of such an enigmatic subject. “I’ve been obsessed with Alan’s story since I was a teenager,” Moore said. “He was always a tremendous hero of mine. He always seemed like the outsider’s outsider, for so many reasons. He was the smartest guy in any room he entered. He was a gay man. He was keeping all these secrets from the government. Because he was apart from society he was able to see the world as no one else had.”
As for what Moore is working on next, it’s actually not another hot script. “I’m finishing my second novel,” he said. “My first came out four years ago. I’m almost done with this one.”
Yesterday at the Independent Spirit Awards, Ida director Pawel Pawlikowski cracked up the audience by saying: “Thank you my competitors for losing this time.” Backstage holding his Oscar, the director also exhibited a little humor, saying that when he was played off the stage during his acceptance speech he had planned to say:” This is great and wonderful, but my kids are the most important thing. It’s the kind of thing Americans would have loved. But he waxed a bit more serious about American tastes when he said he refuses to call Ida “a Holocaust movie like they call it in the States. For me the film is very Polish (not a Polish-Jewish film but) about different versions of Polish-ness.”
What were the biggest influences on the team behind the animated film winner, Disney’s Big Hero 6? Co-director Don Hall said, predictably, Walt Disney. Co-director Chris Williams cited Disney and Charles Schultz. “I’m going to be totally contrarian and say Mickey Mantle,” offered producer Roy Conli. They described Disney animators as a big happy family and said they were thrilled when Frozen won last year. Of Big Hero 6, Hall said: “In our 20-year history at Disney, I think this was our most challenging film, but it makes it all the sweeter.”
While John Legend and Common were backstage for their original song win for “Glory” (Selma) Julianne Moore won for Best Actress — and they gracefully dealt with the distraction, joking: “You knew that was going to happen.” Before the interruption, the musical pair defended their decision to get political during their acceptance speech. “To whom much is given, much is required,” Common said. “As people in a position of power and influence, I feel it’s our duty. I don’t hold any artists responsible, but if you recognize it, do it.” Common added that he wanted to thank star David Oyelowo as the driving force behind the movie: “David made sure that (director) Ava Duvernay got on board, and got Oprah to get it moving.”
Someone backstage mentioned the joke that Neil Patrick Harris made at the expense of Edward Snowden (I missed the joke, but he referenced treason?), asking, how do we get the conversation back to something more serious? To this, Citizenfour producer Mathilde Bonnefoy answered: “We focused on the person Snowden. We tried with our film to show him, to give him a voice. His motives were pure. He’s a young man who decided to end his life as he knew it; he was ready to die for what he did. Maybe (Citizenfour) moves people, galvanizes people to want to make a personal change. After screenings people come up to us really moved.”
Film editing winner Tom Cross said that Whiplash director Damien Chazelle wanted the music rehearsal and performance scenes to be like “boxing scenes from Raging Bull.” Cross added that Chazelle always saw the film as an “editor’s showcase” with suspense, tension and manic energy. But Cross added that the director asked for a much different pace in personal scenes. The contrast, he said, is the key to the movie’s brilliance. He also confessed that he and Chazelle dreamed of making a movie that would give due recognition to J.K. Simmons. The success of the film, he said, has been “an out-of-body experience.”
Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose in Foxcatcher was nosed out by the grandeur of The Grand Budapest Hotel in the makeup and hairstyling category tonight. Backstage, winners Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier were asked how winning an Oscar had improved their work. A slightly baffled Hannon replied: “I haven’t tried it since (winning) so I’ll have a go on Monday. “ Coulier joked that now in the makeup room his subjects will be saying, “He’s won an Oscar. It really ups your game, I think.”
Backstage, Mat Kirkby, with fellow winner James Lucas for The Phone Call (live action short film), said he was gratified to see their little film turn up as a choice on a movie channel while in bed in his hotel room. “I didn’t pay the $5.99 for it, but I would if I was you lot,” he said to the assembled journalists. He also said that never in his wildest dreams did he expect the short film to play “all across America on 500 screens.”
For all the seriousness of the their Oscar-winning short subject documentary, the filmmakers behind Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 were a little irreverent backstage after their win. Someone in the press corps asked Dana Perry about the joke Neil Patrick Harris made about her dress (“It takes a lot of balls to wear a dress like that”), which she laughed off with a saucy, “I invite anyone to feel my furry balls.” The dress apparently came from her mother-in-law’s attic. “This is one of her signature pieces, I love it,” she said. “I can make ridiculous jokes about it.” Jokes aside, Perry did reiterate backstage what she said in her acceptance speech. “My main objective was to honor the responders and staff of the Veterans Crisis Line and the souls out there who are reaching out for help,” she said. “I have a personal connection to the subject, I lost my son, who was 15 when he killed himself. We need to talk about suicide out loud to work against the stigma. The best prevention for suicide is awareness and discussion. We have a crisis with our veterans. More veterans have killed themselves than who died in these wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan).” “This topic is more important today than it was a few years ago (when our film was made),” added Ellen Goosenberg Kent.
“Keep it real, keep it more documentary style, show the pain of the hero”. This was Clint Eastwood’s direction to his longtime sound editor of 37 credits, Alan Robert Murray on creating a grounded aural atmosphere in American Sniper. “His philosophy has always been to have the artist bring what they can to the table,” added Murray about how Eastwood granted him and Bob Asman autonomy with their sound work on the film. And Eastwood is a man of few notes. Asman said, “Clint says ‘I’ll come to the soundstage when you’re ready.” In keeping it real, there was an intricate sound design, from recorded tanks and treads. Said Murray, “We had to come up with a gun for Chris Kyle. Unlike Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, where we recorded the actual guns, we had the challenge of creating a powerful but silent weapon.”
In terms of blurring the lines between what’s real and what’s fake, VFX Oscar winner Paul Franklin said that “Every year we get closer and closer to reality and with (physicist) Kip Thorne on Interstellar, he gave us the physics which described the universe. He showed the outrageous beauty of the universe.” Franklin cited live photographs of black holes as an inspiration in the VFX design on Interstellar. Added Franklin about his connection to Christopher Nolan’s space-time travel film, he said, “I had to go away for a year to make the film, so I felt an empathy with Matthew (McConaughey’s) character, it helped inform everything I did.” Added Ian Hunter, “Chris always wanted us to ground the movie in a reality. He constantly emphasized the humanity. As awe inspiring as the film was, we were still backed by family and love.”