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Inside the Oscar Winners Circle at the 79th Annual Academy Awards

What thoughts are on the minds of Oscars winners after they’ve collected Hollywood’s ultimate trophy? Hollywood.com found out backstage at the 79th Academy Awards:

[IMG:L]Best Actress winner Helen Mirren on whether being perceived as the frontrunner made her Oscar experience more nerve-wracking:
“I felt quite calm. I mean, I felt quite calm because it’s not to say I didn’t care—I cared very much. I honestly felt so deeply honored to be nominated in a year where there were great performances from women. And that’s not always the case, not in the sense that they’re not great actresses out there, but they’re very often not the great roles for the great actresses to play, and therefore, it’s quite difficult to find a leading actress nomination. This year, though, there were wonderful performances in beautifully written roles. So to be nominated amongst those was a huge honor and just to be here, honestly, was everything for me. ‘Win’ is just such a silly word, you know. We’re not athletes. It is great, but the best thing is just to be here.”

[IMG:R]Best Actor winner Forest Whitaker on the role of his ancestors in his big moment:
“I wasn’t sure it was going to happen tonight, but I thought something magical was going to happen because I could feel the breath on my neck, the tingling in my body. For me, that’s my ancestors speaking to me. ‘We are with you. We are walking with you.’ And it’s something that helps me in all my work. It’s not something—I’m not going into alone. I’m standing up with shoulders before me. I stand up on people’s shoulders that guided me to that position, and at times, I’m trying to figure it out. I’m directing and acting and stuff. I stand still and I listen and I just hope that one of them is going to whisper in my year. So because they always inspire me, I feel it’s important to acknowledge them too.”

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[IMG:L]Best Supporting Actress winner Jennifer Hudson on whether winning an Oscar right out of the gate leaves her with even more to prove the next time around:
“God, it definitely adds pressure, I know that much. I cannot express in words how much this award means to me, but all I can do is show it in my work to come and continue to make the Academy proud, not because I got nominated tonight, but just because I have to constantly represent them in the best way possible.”

[IMG:R]Best Direction winner Martin Scorsese on the impact of having his Oscar win delivered by three old and dear friends:
“That was on extraordinary moment when the three of them came out and give me a look. Francis Coppola and George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. We go back. Steven and I go back to ’68, ’69. Francis Coppola, 1970. George, 1970. So we have… I just went up to San Francisco to see Francis and his new film, which is quite wonderful, at George’s new theater on Thursday. So they have influenced me. Francis has been like a big brother in my life. Spielberg and George Lucas and I have—particularly in that first 10 or 12 years in the ’70s, early ’80s—worked together, really worked together, and helped each other with each other’s films. It’s almost like a private little film school. And to see the three of them walk out and give me a look before they opened the envelope… I was very surprised.”

Best Picture winner Graham King [producer of The Departed] on the thrill of watching Martin Scorsese in his element:
“When he’s on a set directing a cast of anything, whether it be The Aviator this or Gangs of New York, he’s just amazing. He’s a collaborator with access and invites me into his world, and he listens to [the cast] if they have an idea and everything is done in a very easy going way, easy going basis and it’s just so natural to him. And, for me, watching him make this movie and watching him direct Jack Nicholson for the first time and watching his camera angles and how he jumps from character to dialogue… It’s just phenomenal. It’s the greatest.”

[IMG:L]Best Supporting Actor winner Alan Arkin on keeping his priorities straight during an awards race:
“I don’t keep score. It’s not about furlongs. I feel in a sense like a hypocrite because I don’t believe in competitions between art activities. I think it’s insane. This is a fun kind of insanity but who is to say who is better? I mean, who has the authority to say who is better? I felt for a long time that if 100 people say one person is a better actor and 50 people say somebody else is a better actor, why do the 100 people have the vote? The 50 people may have been more deeply moved by another performance. What’s the criteria? The criteria is very shadowy. I don’t keep score. I mean, I’m happy to have this. It’s very nice, but I don’t keep score.”

[IMG:R]Best Documentary Feature An Inconvenient Truth’s Al Gore on his political future after winning an Oscar:
“I do not have plans to become a candidate for office again. I am involved in a different kind of campaign that I will continue to try to persuade people all over the world, and especially here, in my own country, to successfully solve the climate crisis.”

Honorary Oscar recipient Ennio Morricone on his own favorite among the movie scores he’s composed:
“It’s almost like asking a father if he has a favorite child. So, I never answer that question. But if I had to answer that, I would say, ‘It’s music from a very good film. I can’t remember the name.’ And so, I’m just going pretend that they are all my favorites.”

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[IMG:L]Best Song winner Melissa Etheridge on being out at the Oscars:
“I think the Oscars are like a gay holiday. No, really. So, it was really, really meaningful that that Ellen or myself—that there’s no token gay here. It’s kind of like we’re a part of this whole mix. It’s a real mix of lots of different diversities here tonight. And I’m grateful to be part of that, and I know maybe someone at home is going to say, ‘Did she say wife?’ But, you know, it’s part of the world, and so that’s where I’m at…We talked about [the kiss] beforehand. I have not been one to kiss my partner in public just for sensationalism. I don’t think I ever have, but she was so important to me; especially, with this project. She was the one who said, ‘Just write what you feel.’ When I was going: Well, how do you write about global warming? What am I going to write about global warming? She said, ‘Just write what you feel.’ And she meant so much to me, and she saved my life. I was kissing her because that’s what you do. You kiss your loved one when you win an Oscar.”

Jean Hersholdt Humanitarian Award recipient Sherry Lansing on being utterly surprised by the presenter of her trophy, Tom Cruise:
“I kept asking who was going to be giving me this award and Laura Ziskin kept saying, ‘I’m not going to tell you. It’s a surprise.’ So I had no idea who was going to be giving me the award. And I didn’t see Tom through all the pre-events, so I was sure it wasn’t him. And, as a matter of fact, I had seen him at an Oscar party a few days before and he was sort of cold to me and I went, ‘God,’ you know? And so he whispered in my ear, ‘This is an honor, I really wanted to do this. You know how much I love you and when I saw you at the party I couldn’t say anything to you.’ So I didn’t know until I walked out and it was extremely emotional for me because I’ve known Tom since he was 19 years old. I know his mom and his dad and I almost started to cry, because it just brought back a flood of memories going back to Taps at 20th Century Fox and continuing through our friendship today. So it’s a long answer but it’s the truth.”

Helen Mirren on whether she’ll get a congratulatory message from the real-life Queen of England:
“I’m not expecting a call from Her Majesty and not ever, and I wouldn’t expect it, I wouldn’t desire it. I think it’s wonderful that I live in a country that allows us to make a film like this, and there are many countries in the world that one would not be allowed to make this film. And I think it’s generous of the royal family and Her Majesty the Queen to sit back and not interfere, and I think it’s very gracious and very noble of her. And I do believe she is a noble person in the best possible sense of the word, which is with class but has all to do with spirit.”

Martin Scorsese on how it’s sweeter to get his Oscar for a film that won Best Picture rather than as a career achievement award:
“I do admire the career achievement. I saw Howard Hawks get a career achievement award and Hitchcock and so many others who were never awarded the award for one particular film so it’s a very special award, like Robert Altman, but it is a different feeling having been chosen for the year.”

Jennifer Hudson on paying tribute to her grandmother through song:
“She’s led over a hundred solos in our church choir, and I come from a singing background. And she never wanted to go professional, and she said, because you have to sing and work when you don’t want to, and she just wanted to sing in church for the Lord. And my theory is I have her voice, and had she went professional, I wouldn’t exist. So my duty and my goal and my dream is to be able to do this for her because I felt like I had a voice that should have been heard by the world.”

Alan Arkin on how the ensemble cast of Little Miss Sunshine gelled, on screen and off:
“I think it mainly had to do with Jonathan [Dayton] and Valerie’s [Farris] brilliant casting. They [cast it] very carefully, and I think either unconscious or subliminally on that part they had a sense the people they were casting were going to be team players, number one. And, number two, we had a week beforehand getting together riding around in the van having lunch together, playing tag. We played all kinds of games for days and days. We went bowling. I won. I did very well. And that, I think, did something to create some of the atmosphere. And I think it was mainly the fact that they hired a bunch of actors who were team players that weren’t elbowing each other out of the way.”

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Al Gore on de-politicizing the issue of the environment:
“It’s not a political issue. It’s not a political movie. Some of the solutions to be worked out within the political sphere, but it really should be bipartisan, and it should be seen as a moral issue where we all have the same stake. It is the overriding moral challenge of our time and we have to find a way to rebuild a bipartisan and nonpartisan way of talking to one another about how to solve the climate crisis. And I really hope the decision by the Academy to honor the work of Davis Guggenheim and these fantastic producers and the team that have supported them will convince people who did not go to see it before. And the many that did, we’re grateful to them, but I hope that this honor will convince many others to go see the movie and learn about the climate crisis and then become a part of the solution to it.”

Happy Feet director George Miller on the future of directors crossing between live-action film and animation:
“I think every single live-action director now has to take into account animation. I think, as I said, there’s a convergence between them. And you talk to most of those kind of big filmmakers, the Jim Camerons and the Spielbergs and the Jacksons and whatever. They are doing that. They are all into it because it’s part of our language now, it’s part of our repertoire, so I think we have all got to learn it and it’s a great way to play. And everyone is so young—it’s such a great opportunity, everyone is so young. The average age on this film was 26. I’m an old fart, and working with them was fantastic.”

Sherry Lansing on leaving the movie business but keeping an eye on their future:
“I can tell you probably more about stem cell research than I could today about the movie industry, because that’s really where my heart is. I still go to movies all the time and root my friends on. I think that what is really about to change is the distribution of film. As we all know as we watch our children, they are watching them on cell phones and they are watching films on their iPod and they’re watching them on their computers, but the distribution will change. People will still go to the theaters but they will also want movies any way, any time at their convenience that they can get them. But the good news is the one thing that will not change is the content. So anybody that can make a movie is really lucky, because they are going to continue to want them to make them.”

Forest Whitaker on the diversity of the nominees in this year’s Oscar crowd:
“I think we have to be connected as a planet. When you see this year, you see people from all over the world, and you know, from Spain, from Germany, from Mexico, you know, artists from Japan, you know what I mean. Stories that are like you know, reflecting the diversity of humanity, and I think right now, we need that, because we need to understand that this over here is connected to this over here. And it’s so that’s what — that’s what this has done for me. And that’s why it’s happening because we have to pay attention. We have to pay attention and understand that I affect you and you affect me.”

Melissa Etheridge on where she’ll keep her Oscar:
“This is the only naked man that will ever be in my bedroom.”

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