Backstage At The Oscars

By Anthony D'Alessandro, Joe Utichi, Amanda N'Duka

Spotlight Tom McCarthy Michael Keaton Oscars 2016
AP Images

“The story of Spotlight has just begun,” said Michael Sugar, one of the four Spotlight producers to win best picture tonight. The win came as a surprise to the group, and what truly made it special was the actual Boston Globe Spotlight team and the sexual abuse survivors were in the audience of the Dolby Theater.

“I hope you journalists will help resonate our message all the way to the Vatican and we can have some real change at this point. That was the hope for us was to talk about what happened. These things are still happening,” continued Sugar on the Catholic Church’s cover-up of its clergy’s sexual abuse. Nicole Rocklin said that when they were prepping the film, “We thought initially we were going to get a lot of resistance from the city of Boston. But many people came forward to tell us their personal stories. That was moving and emotional for all of us.”

“The acting was so subtle that allowed the story to come through, said Steve Golin about the film’s nuanced brilliance. “I always told Tom (McCarthy) that he hit a small bulls eye. If you’re off, you’re off by a lot.”

When asked about how Spotlight only earned two trophies tonight – original screenplay and best picture—and how it seemed like it was the unpopular choice at first by the Academy, Byle Pagon Faust said about the win, “It’s a huge testament made by the Academy and its members in recognizing the impacts the film is having. It continues to speak volumes to the filmmaking community and the power of film”.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Leonardo DiCaprio Alejandro G. Inarritu Oscars 2016Alejandro Inarritu came to the backstage podium together to celebrate their Best Actor and Best Director wins for The Revenant. “Every film is like a son,” said Inarritu. “You cannot like one son more than the other. I love this film as I love Birdman. Sharing this with Leo and the nominated crew, I think the award I’m getting is on behalf of all of them. We’re all celebrating tonight.” He referenced his comments on stage, as the orchestra tried to play him off. “I was being interrupted by music, but I want to say what I want to say. The debate isn’t only about white or black. The complexity of the society is much more than one or the other. Again, I think it’s becoming a little bit polarized and politicized without observing the complexity of this country which is so mixed. That is the real power of this country. Still we are dragging this tribal thinking at this time seems to be absolutely absurd. I think one of the problems we’re suffering is there’s no moderate platforms to talk about something deeply. Why we cannot get rid of these prejudices about the color of skin.”

DiCaprio referenced his comments about Climate Change. “For me to be able to stand there and talk not only about the film but something I’ve been as obsessed with as cinema – climate change – to me this is the existential crises our civilization has ever known. I wanted to speak out about that tonight because simultaneously with this film I’ve been doing a doc about climate change and I’ve been speaking to the world’s leading experts on this issue. The time is now; it’s imperative that we act. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for tonight, but there’s a ticking clock out there. We must all do something proactive about this issue.”

Brie Larson 2016 OscarsFirst-time winner and nominee Brie Larson was beaming backstage as she took the podium to speak to reporters. She talked about her personal journey throughout the making of Room. “This time a year ago, I was still trying to figure out who I was,” she said. “The movie was done, but I was in deep searching. I was pulling apart the piece between things that I had learned with being Ma and who I was before this movie. The point was, by the time the movie was over I was so far away from who I was when it started. … The weird part is, I’m standing here now completely myself. Everything about this experience … everything has been very pointedly about it being a representation of who I am. I feel really strong and excited to be holding this gold guy that I do feel like it is an incredible metaphor of how I feel inside.”

The actress touched on what she hoped this film would do for women in similar situations as her character. “In the core of it, when we want to talk about feeling trapped and that can be trapped in a way that’s metaphorical or physical representation of that. We want to talk about abuse; the many different ways that females can be abused or feel confined. I hope this story changes people and allows them to be free. To me, this movie was my own search for freedom and breaking free of personal boundaries and I hope that when people watch this they realize that they have it in themselves to break free of whatever it is that’s holding them back.”

Tom McCarthy, Josh SingerBest Original Screenplay winners Spotlight writers Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer were the first through the winners’ room backstage. McCarthy described the moment the film was announced as “electric. You don’t start a project thinking of awards; you’re really trying to get it right.” Answering a question from The Boston Globe, the paper featured in the movie, McCarthy praised the, “hardworking, dedicated and curious professionals” that broke the story about priest abuse in the Catholic Church. And then an actual spotlight blew on the platform behind McCarthy and Singer. “That is the power of the Catholic Church,” laughed McCarthy, safe from harm. Said Singer: “Thank God we’re protected by Oscars.”

Backstage, Adam McKay, Charles Randolph, Adam McKaywinner of Best Adapted Screenplay with Charles Randolph for The Big Short, was asked to expand on the political comment he made during his speech about political candidates not taking money from big business and oil companies. He says he was not referring to any particular Presidential candidate but “we got to stop, big money is taking over our government and until right and left goes no more big money, it has to be like a Scarlet letter on these candidates. I really honestly did not mean any side but Google it, you can see what the candidates are have been paid.” On another note, when asked about what they (McKay and Randolph) thought about Chris Rock’s opening monologue, McKay added “I thought it was jabbing at Hollywood but at the same time even-handed and dealing with a new area of how we discuss diversity.”

Jenny BeavanCostume Designer Jenny Beavan completed her Oscar journey by announcing on stage at the Dolby Theater that Mad Max could be a “prophetic” vision of a future in which we continue to ignore the environment. Backstage, she expounded: “I truly didn’t think of it when we were making the film. In fact, we made it in bits and pieces that you never got a sense of it. It was only three years later at a press screening that I understood the power of it. The whole thought about that—which unfortunately the music came up and I didn’t get all through it—has been growing on me. If we don’t start being kinder to the environment, and stop filling the ocean with toxic waste, it could be real.” Beavan is known for her period and contemporary work. “I’ve never done anything futuristic,” she said. “And if you’re going to go futuristic this is the perfect vehicle. George Miller’s mind is so extraordinary.”

Emmanuel Lubezki makes historyEmmanuel Lubezki by becoming the first Cinematographer ever to win three years in a row (this year for The Revenant). “Really?” was Lubezki’s reaction when he was told this backstage. He took journalists to task for treating the Academy Awards like a race.“I never saw the Academy Awards as a competition; that’s something you guys created. It’s more a celebration of the art and craft of filmmaking. I’m so lucky to be here and it’s not five cinematographers running 100 meters to see who gets the Oscar first. I’m just lucky. It doesn’t mean I’m the best cinematographer.”

Margaret SixelMargaret Sixel, another member on the Mad Max: Fury Road below-the-line crew and winner of the Best Film Editing Oscar, talked backstage about female representation in the industry after a reporter mentioned that many of the recipients in the crew have been women. “You mean are women underrepresented, that’s an understatement. I think there is a prejudice that women can’t cut action but I’m hoping that will change with the Star Wars girls and me. She goes on to note, “I think it’s already changing… you just watch in the next 10 years the balance will come in our favor hopefully.” When questioned about if she would do a Mad Max sequel, you could hear the reluctance in her voice. Sixel offers, “I’d like to do a small one [film] in between. One we can shoot in six weeks and cut in three months, that’d be good.”

“Because of the way the film was shot with high speed cameras and sands, a lot of the sound during production wasn’t usable,” said Mark Mangini, David WhiteMad Max: Fury Road sound editor Mark Mangini, “Everything you hear in the film was something David and I created. That’s a stunning accomplishment.” Pulling off such a huge apocalyptic epic took a team, not a dictator when it came to a director and George Miller “created an environment where everyone was allowed to be creative” said David White. “He’s one of the greatest collaborators, he’s not a micro-manager” added Mangini, “He says ‘here’s what I’m trying to achieve in the film’ and then he asks ‘How does sound complement it?’” Mangini put White on the spot in the press road, regaling how he dared his Max Max sound partner to approach Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara at a party the other night and ask “When are you making another Mad Max movie?”

Mark Ardington, Sara Bennett, Paul Norris, Andrew WhitehurstAndrew Whitehurst and his team realized the Visual Effects of Ex Machina and took the Oscar win as the David to the other nominees’ Goliaths. “I don’t think any of us felt there was an issue looking at the budgets between the films,” Whitehurst said. “They’re all such different movies. The thing that’s different about Ex Machina, is it’s rare in visual effects to be asked to do something subtle and delicate. That was the brief Alex Garland gave us and it was a pleasure to run with that.” The team talked about how they realized the film was gaining more traction when it started getting nominated for precursor awards like BAFTA.

Mark Rylance’s win for Best Supporting Mark RylanceActor (Bridge of Spies) recognizes an extraordinary talent from the stage in the throes of a renaissance on the screen. Rylance set his award on the floor while he talked to the press. “It’s heavy,” he mouthed as he came in. “You feel more like a spokesman when you win than someone better than the other nominees.” He also credited Idris Elba and Paul Dano as actors worthy of the nod this year, and laughed when asked whether he thought Mark Ruffalo’s name was going to be read out in the moment. “Actually, Mark Ruffalo told me on the red carpet that happened to him at the BAFTAs,” said Rylance. He also took the British honor in this category. “The presenter had slowed down after the R. A number of his team had turned around to congratulate him and then the dreaded Y came around to crush his dreams.” Rylance related the story of how Spielberg had approached him for a small role in Empire of the Sun, and after he accepted it he received an offer to work on a season of plays and begged off. The plays, he said, weren’t very well received, but he met his wife and got to work with Spielberg again in any case. “It turned out to be an all right call.” Rylance said he felt black actors would be in a much stronger position now that the #OscarsSoWhite protests and Chris Rock’s material tonight had served to highlight the issue. He also said he felt representation for women deserved to be addressed. “It’s a matter of audiences taking this on and not just going out for the thrill or the safe bet, but taking a go at films and plays telling stories of more diverse members of society.”

Inside Out Oscar Winner Pete Docter Jonas RiveraHow do you make a movie about an adolescent girl’s emotions? For the Pixar team, realizing that was a tall task. According to the scientists they consulted the human mind was “the most complex thing ever” said Pete Docter, co-director of Best Animated Feature film Inside Out.“We had to make sure that things were simple and clear,” added Docter whose inspiration for the film was his own 11-year old daughter. “I thought, ‘What’s going on inside her head?’” The director and his producer Jonas Rivera spoke about the impact that Inside Out is having. Said Docter, “We hear from teachers of special needs kids who say that Inside Out has given them the vocabulary to talk for the first time.”

The visibly excited duo from 88th Annual Academy Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, America - 28 Feb 2016Bear Story stepped backstage and showed pride for their hometown. “It’s the first Oscar for our country so we want to say #OscarsoChilean! Gabriel Osorio exclaimed. “For us it’s really important to get this message through, the message about the importance of family, about the importance of the family must be together and cannot be separated for any reason, for political reasons or whatever other reason.” Pato Escala said. He goes on to add “my personal hope is that, I know it sounds innocent, we really hope we can get this message to the next generation so they cant’ make the same mistakes again. That’s really our hope as animators, as communicators, and as filmmakers.” Osorio adds, “we want to represent our voice in animation, our Chilean voice, our Latin American voice, it’s going to be different from Europeans, and North American… We want to bring you what’s happening in Latin America right now, what happened before, and what’s happening in the future.”

Asif Kapadia, James Gay-ReesAsif Kapadia’s Amy takes the Best Documentary Oscar after a smattering of wins throughout the season and a huge public response to the film. Backstage, producer James Gay-Rees addressed a question about the negative response to the movie from Amy Winehouse’s father Mitch. “Our job wasn’t to blame anybody; it was basically to tell people how great Amy Winehouse was and I think we’ve done that.” The film took three years to make, said Kapadia. “I never met Amy, I never saw her perform live, but she was a local girl. A North Londoner. Once we started researching we realized there was a different story. She was a different person to the one people thought they knew. The mission was to show the real Amy. This is as much a film about London, about where we live and about now.” Kapadia hopes his film encourages people to reconsider the way we treat famous people who are clearly in distress. “Part of the mission of the film was to get people to think before sending that nasty tweet or thought about someone.”

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoywinner of best documentary short subject for A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, said she was not expected the award. Backstage she talked about the impact of the recognition saying “the power of being nominated for an academy award, really does mean for a country like Pakistan, that you can change laws… my film deals with forgiveness and how the law is manipulated and how they’re going to change that.” When questioned about Sada, who is the focus in the film, Obaid-Chinoy offers “she’s obviously very excited by it. She somehow thinks we’re winning the world cup. She wanted her story told and the impact of her story is tremendous because it’s going to change lives and save lives and there can be no greater reward than that.” On what’s next for the docu filmmaker, I’m actually going into animation because its so much calmer then making documentary films, that’s what I’m working on now, an animated short.

Damian Martin, Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka WardegaThe make-up and hairstyling crew took their turn backstage, one of the many from the Mad Mad: Fury Road below-the-line team. Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, and Damian Martin talked about the many challenges in making the film such as the copious amount of sand and long hours in the make-up chairs many of the actors endured. But one thing that wasn’t a challenge, according to the team, was working with director George Miller. The lauded the collaborative helmer for being a great “storytelling” and “communicator.” “George is amazing,”Vanderwalt praises. “It’s George’s vision”, she continues, “and we were just helping, you know, facilitate it… I think all his crew were very much a part of his process.”

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