A historic and exciting night at the Oscars capped off a truly great year for film. From big, surprising moments to the ones that went almost unnoticed, the 92nd Oscars celebrated milestones at almost every turn. This year celebrated many veteran filmmakers with nominations, but a staggering 32 out of 38 winners took home their very first statuettes.
While the show went on in the Dolby theater, Awards Circuit was backstage for the first time, ready to greet the winners in the Interview Room. Here are some of the things you didn’t get to hear during the broadcast.
Academy Award winner Brad Pitt used his moment at the microphone to make a political statement about Trump’s impeachment and the Senate’s decision to acquit without hearing from witnesses. Backstage, on reporter asked what prompted him to use his time for a political message. “I was really disappointed with this week,” Pitt said. “And I think when gamesmanship trumps doing the right thing, it’s a sad day and I don’t think we should let it slide. And I’m very serious about that.”
When asked if this year has been the time of his life, Pitt said, “Well, no. I hope not.” He talked about feeling the love from a community he’s been part of for thirty years, but concluded, “I think it’s time to go disappear for a little while now and, you know, get back to making things.”
Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver won the prize for their Animated Short Film, “Hair Love.”
Cherry was excited to talk about representation in all aspects of filmmaking and about why “Hair Love” was an important story for him. “When I was coming across a lot of these viral videos of dads doing their daughters’ hair, they were just so inherently joyful. Our biggest challenge was just to maintain that joy that made people gravitate towards those videos in the first place. So to be here and doing something like this with black hair and black families, it’s just, it’s literally a dream.”
Toliver said, “Yeah, and we hope that the success of this really just shows that those positive images are things that people want to see, and you can have the variety of imagery, you can do those stories that are more dramatic and sort of more sad. But the joyous ones are just as possible and powerful and possible.”
Everyone’s favorite actress, Laura Dern sang the praises of her Oscar-nominated parents, Bruce Dern and Dianne Ladd during her acceptance speech onstage. And she continued to praise them in the press room. “That just makes me so happy to stand up and sing their praises,” she said. “They literally got me here and artistically got me here as well. So it means the world.”
When asked what she thought we could all learn from her film, “Marriage Story,” Dern answered, “I think if a couple through heartbreak and divisiveness can come together to raise a child, then this country better get our act together.” After praising her director, Noah Baumbach, she added, “We have a planet to save. So I pray we can all come together to focus on something that is not all about politics. It’s all about our home.”
The filmmaking team behind “American Factory” was thrilled to talk about their hometown film and teaming up with Barack and Michelle Obama. With tensions increasing between China and the US, one reporter asked how films like theirs could help bring the two countries together. Director Julia Reichert described the ways American and Chinese workers learned to cooperate despite language barriers. Then she said, “I hope our film makes you see two things: One is that workers around the world are definitely getting pushed down. But also that we can be fair to each other.”
Sir Elton John previously won an Academy Award for “The Lion King” in 1994, but this was the first Oscar for his long-time writing partner, Bernie Taupin. On their way out the door to Elton’s infamous Oscar party, he stopped to sing Taupin’s praises. “Without him, I wouldn’t be here… This is the man who started the journey, and we are still together after 53 years.”
He also took a moment to praise the filmmakers and particularly “Rocketman” star Taron Egerton, who portrayed the singer. “He should have been nominated as one of the best actors, but for me, he was the best performance this year.”
Composer Hildur Guδnadottir made many friends this year during the press tour for “Joker.” The enthusiastic musician from Iceland was thrilled to talk about inclusion and representation backstage. Guδnadottir is the first woman to be nominated for Original Score since Rachel Portman was last nominated with “Chocolat” in 2000.
She commented that as she has gone through the awards season, she has often been the first woman to win certain awards. “It makes us realize, ‘Whoa, wait a minute, maybe there’s something a little bit unbalanced going on here,'” Guδnadottir said. “And it’s been a real honor for me to be a part of opening it up and, you know, pointing out that this is a little bit silly and we should be opening up the industry to more women.”
The always delightful Taika Waititi joined the press room to talk about adapting “Jojo Rabbit” from Christine Leunens’ novel, “Caging Skies.” The two stories are very different and we asked the Oscar winner how he broke the news to Leunens that he was changing her story. “I was pretty up front with my intentions,” Waititi said. “And she’d seen my other films before so she already knew that I was incapable of making a drama.”
When one reporter asked his thoughts on the upcoming WGA negotiations, he couldn’t resist turning a serious question into a comedy bit. “Apple needs to fix those keyboards,” he quipped. “They are impossible to write on. They have gotten worse, makes me want to go back to PCs because a PC keyboard, the bounceback for your fingers is way better… The WGA needs to step in and actually do something.”
Renee Zellweger capped off a comeback year with her second Academy Award, this time for her leading role in “Judy.” Throughout the season, she has taken every opportunity to praise Judy Garland. Backstage was no exception.
“This is about wanting to… celebrate Judy Garland and to shine a light on, perhaps, the nuances of the circumstances of her life, which people dismiss as tragic. And, you know, the opportunity to tell a story that challenges that narrative and says, ‘Oh no, no, no, no, you can’t know how extraordinary a person is until you know what they struggle with and what they overcome.’ And, to me, that’s what this is.”
The press room erupted in applause and a standing ovation when Academy Award winners Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin Won, and Kwak Sin Ae arrived with their collective four statuettes. With so much love and excitement in the air, Bong declared — in English — “It’s literally fucking crazy!”
When asked to discuss the significance of “Parasite” and its four Oscars, producer Kwak Sin Ae said, through translator Sharon Choi, “I did once imagine what it would mean to win Best Picture. To win Best Picture means that this film was voted by the members of the Academy, and I realized that would signal the beginning of a different kind of change for international cinema, not just for Korea.”
Bong was asked to share his message for actors of Asian descent in Hollywood. He took a moment to shout out Lulu Wang, whose film, “The Farewell” won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature just the day before. “I don’t think it’s necessary to separate all the borders and divisions, whether it’s Asia, Europe or the US. If we pursue the beauty of cinema and focus on individual charms that each piece has, I think we will naturally overcome all these barriers.”
And before they headed out for a night of Hollywood parties, Bong took a moment to praise his tireless translator. “You already know she’s a filmmaker,” he reminded the room. “She’s writing a feature-length script. I’m so curious about it!”
Rumor has it, Choi’s script is about the awards season. What a perfect way to end the year.