Backstage at the Oscars: My First Time
RT's Jen Yamato gives her first-hand account of what it was like to cover the Academy Awards.
In the Oscars press room, you sit in an assigned seat amongst a sea of journalists from around the globe, every one of them decked out in tuxes and gowns, for formality's sake; the official, scan-able press badge must also be worn at all times, no matter how it clashes with your outfit. Lucky ones get to park their laptops and recording devices at a table, from which they write and file reports throughout the night. Food and non-alcoholic beverages are kindly catered in the hallway (try the shrimp!), and you're free to roam, headset in ear tuned to ABC's official telecast, around a guarded 50-foot perimeter. It's a strange combination of traditional etiquette and voluntary imprisonment, and the tightest-run ship in movie journalism.
At every seat there is an assigned number card, which you must hold up to be called on during each press conference. If your number is called, you'll get the microphone to ask a winner one of ten or so questions before they're shuffled offstage, to escape back into the safety of the Kodak Theater and rejoin the show. Rotten Tomatoes' number was 141, and it was called once -- at the end of the night, while the night's biggest winner, Slumdog director Danny Boyle, was taking questions.
"Rotten Tom-ah-toes? We love Rotten Tom-ah-toes!" shouted Slumdog producer Christian Colson, who along with Boyle received an Oscar for the film. "It's got a 95!"
(Slumdog Millionaire actually has a 94 percent Tomatometer rating. For a second I thought about it, then politely declined to correct Colson; he was only off by one point.)
Boyle, whose naturally jubilant demeanor was especially cheerful after eight Slumdog wins on the night, stood with his Oscar in his left hand and a glass of champagne in his right. "My other film, Millions, also did really well on Rotten Tom-ah-toes!" (He was right -- Millions scored an 88 percent Tomatometer and won the Golden Tomato Award for best-reviewed family film.)
After the shout out, Boyle answered my question: even with all of its Oscars and accolades, does he still think Slumdog is and should be an imperfect film? He used the opportunity to reiterate his onstage mention of choreographer Longinus, who directed Slumdog's end-credits dance sequence. At his side, Colson jumped in to praise Boyle for having the humility to note his error while onstage accepting his Academy Award. "I don't want to embarrass Danny, and this would embarrass him," Colson began, "but it's a measure of the man that in his Oscar acceptance speech, the last thing he addresses is forgetting someone off the credits, and I think that is awesome."
Boyle and Colson also juxtaposed their tiny Slumdog --- which nearly didn't get a theatrical release -- to the big studio flick The Dark Knight. "It was wonderful to see Heath Ledger's work acknowledged in The Dark Knight," Boyle said. "And it is extraordinary work. But like virtually, I am sure, everybody, Heath started small as well. He started [in] small films, you know. Everybody does and we've got to protect them."
"And the studios have got to protect them as well," he continued. "Because that's where everybody starts, and they go on. Some people go on to some things and some don't. But that's where everybody begins, in those small independent movies. And you learn the business, you learn your craft, you learn what you are doing, you know. So, it's very, very, very important. The first film I made [cost] a million pounds. The whole film cost a million pounds. That's where you learn your craft."
In the end, Boyle himself summed up his entire Slumdog experience. "This amazing British poet called WJ Jordan talks about Americans putting jukeboxes on the moon. Soon you will be putting jukeboxes on the moon. I love that expression, and that's what tonight feels like. Just amazing like that. The bringing together of things that are just so unlikely and yet wonderful and about entertainment and pleasure and exploring things and changing things."
Next: More of our favorite backstage snippets from Oscar's big winners