Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller became the first remote winners on tonight’s Oscar show, accepting their Best Adapted Screenplay trophies from London and Paris, respectively.
The pair triumphed for their screen version of Zeller’s play, The Father, which was first performed in French in 2012. Anthony Hopkins plays the title role in the film version, portraying a man slipping into dementia. Zeller has said seeing Rain Man first planted the idea of the potential for the story.
The Father beat out Nomadland, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, One Night in Miami and The White Tiger in the category.
Zeller beamed as his shoulder-length hair waved in the breeze on the rooftop location in Paris. Hampton and Hopkins’ co-star Olivia Colman were shown at the British Film Institute screening room in London, the official Oscar night hub. Hampton smiled and stood proudly, but did not give a speech. (History has shown that may not be a bad thing — followup speakers taking the mic at the Dolby have often been cut or played off, creating the very awkward moments the Oscar producers were desperate to avoid.)
Initially, show producers Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins instituted a ban on remote speeches, saying all nominees would need to appear at the main LA site. Given the number of hopefuls spread out across the world and limited by coronavirus travel protocols, the idea met with considerable pushback. A compromise was worked out to create centralized hubs, a solution aimed to help the night avoid the Zoom-fatigue feel of February’s Golden Globe Awards.
The Father, like Nomadland, was not eligible for a Writers Guild Award because of the guild’s very specific criteria. But the film, propelled by Hopkins, had been gaining momentum in the Oscar race.
After its start on the stage in France, The Father would be translated to English and produced on Broadway with Frank Langella in the role played by Hopkins on screen. Langella won a Tony Award for the performance in 2016.
Zeller dedicated the win to Hopkins. “To me, he’s the greatest – the greatest living actor,” he said. “Just the idea to work with him was like a dream. I knew that it was not an easy dream to fulfill.”
The co-writer, who also directed The Father, said Hopkins was his No. 1 choice as soon as the film project took shape. Initially, the idea of landing the Oscar winner and famed Royal Shakespeare Company alum was daunting.
“Sometimes, we are the one who closes the door on what is possible and what is not possible,” Zeller said. “With ‘The Father,’ I really wanted not to close that door and to follow my inspiration and my desire and my dream. So, thank you, Anthony, for saying yes for that script.”
Check out Zeller and Hampton’s backstage appearance below.