Oscars 2011: Backstage with Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, Melissa Leo, Christian Bale, and more

Natalie-Portman-OscarImage Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty ImagesThe Academy Awards press room is a fascinating microcosm of the movie industry, and the press that covers it. Having just been tasked with the challenge of delivering a succinct acceptance speech in front of a bazillion people, the Oscar winners are then whisked backstage and bombarded with questions. Being the professionals that they are, they generally handle these queries with ease.

Then you have the 300 or 400 press members in the room — a vibrant spectrum of media representing multiple countries, varying levels of experience (college-newspaper reporters rub elbows with esteemed veterans), and different interests. There are always one or two reporters who ask a question so groan-inducing that, well, most of the room groans. But for the most part, it was a pleasant and insightful affair, during which Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Melissa Leo, Christian Bale, and others were given the opportunity to reflect on their accomplishments and reiterate their gratitude. Here’s the best of who said what:

Colin Firth: The King’s Speech star is flat-out against the toned-down PG-13 version of the film that the Weinstein Company is planning to release, presumably with fewer curse words. “I don’t support it,” Firth stated. “In the context of this film, [the profanity] could not be more edifying, more appropriate. It’s not vicious. It’s about a man trying to free himself through the use of forbidden words, and he’s so coy about it. I still haven’t met the person who would object to it. So I think the film should stand as it is.”

As for Firth’s post-Oscar plans? “I think I’m going to cook a lot,” he said. “I don’t think I’m particularly good at it, but I’m going to inflict my cooking on anybody within range. I tend to find that’s a very good way to decompress. But I’ll probably be the only one eating it.”

Natalie Portman: Many questions were directed toward the Black Swan actress’ pregnancy. No, she’s doesn’t know the gender of her child (or is at least not telling us). No, she’s not going to name the child Oscar. And, yes, the baby was kicking, but only during the song portions of the ceremony. I did appreciate Portman’s response, though, to what she’d tell her child-to-be about this whole Oscar experience. “I think I will just thank them,” said Portman. “[Pregnancy] has sort of been a protection against all of the hoopla, and the part that keeps you centered. [It reminds you] what is actually important in the midst of a lot of shiny stuff that is more superficial.”

Melissa Leo: The supporting actress winner was quickly asked about dropping the Oscars’ first f-bomb during her acceptance speech, when she said, “When I watched Kate [Winslet] two years ago, it looked so much [expletive] easier.” Backstage, The Fighter actress was apologetic for using the word. “I really don’t mean to offend, and [it was] probably a very inappropriate place to use that particular word,” said Leo. “There’s a great deal of the English language that is in my vernacular.”

And, now that she won, did Leo feel vindicated about her controversial Oscar campaign ad? “There’s nothing to vindicate, and there was no campaign,” said Leo. “It was a photograph in a magazine. I wanted a pretty photograph in a magazine — that’s all it was.”

Christian Bale: The supporting actor winner for The Fighter accidentally missed costar Melissa Leo’s acceptance speech. “I found myself out in the bar with [Dicky Eklund, the real-life trainer Bale played] and my wife, thinking that it was like the other awards where you just walk on in and go out,” Bale explained. “I unfortunately missed Melissa’s acceptance speech because they wouldn’t let me in. I missed the f-bomb. But, you know, I’ve laid down many of them myself before, so I think I know what it was all about.”

Also, one reporter ludicrously found a way to ask Bale about Charlie Sheen, since Bale’s character, Dicky, had a “chemically enhanced meltdown.” Luckily for Bale, he had the perfect alibi to avoid answering the question. “I’ve been in China [filming Zhang Yimou’s next film],” said Bale. “Just no idea [about Sheen].” And after the Yimou film (The 13 Women of Nanjing) is finished, Bale will immediately start focusing on The Dark Knight Rises.

David Seidler: The 73-year-old writer of The King’s Speech, himself a former stutterer, has been genuinely moved by the response to the film and its impact on other stutterers. “I’ve been flooded with the most wonderful e-mails, phone calls, and text messages from my fellow stutterers,” said Seidler. He then shared one particular anecdote: “A speech therapist spoke to me a few days ago, [and said] that one of her clients, a teenage girl, had come in and been terribly bullied for being a stutterer. And what do most stutterers do when we’re bullied? We keep quiet because how can we talk back? That’s the very thing they tease us about. But this girl was determined not to take it, and the therapist said [to her], ‘What made the difference?’ And she said, ‘Because I have a voice.'”

Lee Unkrich: The Toy Story 3 director revealed that the film’s poignant ending was partly inspired by the final moments he spent with his dying grandmother. “She would say, ‘I am going to live to see you get an Oscar,’ and unfortunately, that never happened,” said Unkrich. “There’s a moment in Toy Story 3 that’s very inspired by her. When I was making the first Toy Story, which I edited, she got cancer, and I rushed home to see her because it was clear she was not going to be around long. There was a moment where I looked at her for the very last time, and I knew that that was the last time I was seeing my grandmother alive, and I took a mental snapshot of that moment before I turned away and left.”

Unkrich continued: “When we were making Toy Story 3, there’s a moment at the end of the film where Andy gets back in his car, and he looks back at his toys one last time before he drives off to college. I told this story to my animators and [to screenwriter] Michael Arndt, and I would like to think in my heart that the moment is infused with just a deeper level of emotion because I told that story.”

Randy Newman: The singer-songwriter, who won best original song for Toy Story 3‘s “We Belong Together,” can always be counted on for his biting honesty. When asked for his advice on how to break into the music industry, Newman retorted, “Who would want to break into the music industry? It’s like a bank that’s already been robbed.”

Luke Matheny: How many text messages does one get immediately after winning an Oscar? For Matheny, the New York University graduate student who directed the best live-action short film God of Love, the answer is 73. Plus 50 unread e-mails. And don’t even begin to think about the state of his Facebook profile.

Comments (39 total) Add your comment
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  • Ivy Lee

    I left this comment in another blog, but I’ll go ahead and repeat it.

    After the Golden Globes people thought she was just excited to be winning. Now after the Oscars, she’s made history as the first person to drop the F bomb during an acceptance speech. An Oscar should be rewarded to your work – your work is the best honor that should triumph, and accolades are second. It’s fine and really endearing if you are emotional, but nothing should take away your class during an acceptance speech, and the praise is on the performance and NOT on the trophy. She was extremely unprofessional and just plain childish. Hailee Steinfeld should have won. Her speech would have been adorable, and her performance in True Grit was outstanding. I’m shocked that True Grit didn’t win anything, I would have thought Hailee would be a highlighting Oscar winner for the film. Melissa Leo – you have probably lost many people’s respect and possibly cost yourself roles. I don’t think movie studios will want to hire you if this is how you will represent their movie.

    • elizabeth

      it’s just a f*cking word.

    • ^


    • Christine

      I’m kind of with Ivy here.

    • Caroline

      The words we choose say worlds about who we are. Profanity is quite commonplace and some people want to be perceived as down to earth, hence the use of earthy language. Most of us realize that our speech identifies who we are, and who we aspire to be.

      • Gwen

        Ms. Leo said in her backstage remarks that she “has a lot of words in her vernacular” (I think she meant “vocabulary”). She could have used a different word, then. The random use of the “f” word, and especially at such a high-profile event, shows a lack of class and a rather poor vocabulary.

    • Janis Ian

      What was that? I’m sorry, but I couldn’t hear you as you are so high up on your pedastal.

      • geegee

        And your inability to spell makes you…?

    • Kari

      I just found Leo to be cloying. I could care less about her language, but her behavior was ridiculous. She was trying really hard to look surprised and just looked like a fool, instead of a gracious actress capable of producing the caliber of work that earned her an Oscar.

      • pepper

        This is exactly how I felt. She should win a Razzie for that performance.

      • Billie

        She came across as narcissistic, overly dramatic and the epitome of what I can’t stand about actresses.

    • DiMi

      Ivy, I find it amusing that a person who makes so many grammatical errors is attacking somebody else’s use of language. Hubris, darling.

  • steph

    Ok the blurb from David Seidler made me a little teary.

    • Kate

      Me too. Great movie but I think its comments like that young woman’s that are the reward. Those are the profound moments you want to experience in life.

    • Wills

      Me three, I am a 30 year old female stutter (kind of rare as stutters go) and that whole movie and acceptance speech resonated greatly with me! I’ve come to terms with my stutter years ago but it’s nice to see it acknowledged. Like other disorders or diseases most people just don’t know about it and that is why it is made fun of. Thank you David Seidler and every one else!

    • Billie

      Add me to the “got teary” list. What a lovely man and what a contrast to that wackadoodle Melissa Leo.

  • Get over it!

    Oh pls just get over it. It was not that bad. Some people just love to exagerate things. She’ll be fine, and everyone that heard her say that will be fine. Ugh as far as I’m concerned she was not being childish but all these people whining about are.

  • Antisemith:)

    Natalie is very strange to those, who acknowledged. Like Mr Mr. Bale too. He realy understand many thigs so lively, like by website about telepathy “kibernetika (webs. com)”. As I know he was drowned in a wirtual fighting with any Torper from FBI (because his wife), in a virtual romane with unknown ladie Diana Jasilionyte and so one.
    Mysterious man..:)

  • Eggly

    Wow chill out, who honestly gives a crap? Our speech neither identifies who are are or who we aspire to be, it’s just talking. It’s just a word. Anyone that takes offence is over-sensitive and pathetic really.

  • LD

    Colin Firth can cook anything for me anytime and I’ll wipe the plate clean! Absolutely *love* that guy!

  • mary

    when has Melissa Leo come off as classy?

  • Tom

    Unfortunately, those who take ofense may wel be people whodirectly influence your life. People like prospective employers, present bosses, etc. Many people are over sensitive, so what?

    • Eggly

      “Many people are over sensitive, so what?”

      Many people swear. So what? Dude, she’s just won an Oscar, I really think she’s going to be ok in the career department.

      • BenFL

        Really? How quickly we forget Cuba Gooding Jr.’s acceptance… His career really took off after that…

      • @BenFL

        I think it was Cuba Gooding Jr.’s role choices that pretty much killed his career, not anything he did or didn’t say during his acceptance speech.

    • Jennifer

      If she worked in an office, dropping the f-bomb might have a negative effect on her career prospects; the movie industry, not so much. (See Bale, Christian, for an example.)

  • Andre

    To all those berating Melissa Leo for dropping the F-bomb: Get over yourselves. Until you win an Oscar (or any life-altering accolade, for that matter), don’t second guess someone else who probably is overcome with emotion that very moment. So she used the F-word. Like it’s the first time we’ve seen it done on TV. Geez.

  • sassyfras

    I’m not offended by the word, just sorry for that lady who will be forever known as ‘The One Who F-Bombed Her Acceptance Speech’.

  • Kari

    I found Anne Hathaway charming, but Franco was awkward and is clearly more comfortable acting than being himself on camera. Overall it was kind of a clunky show but that was the writing, not the hosts. The winners were pretty low key for the most part. I could care less about the f-bomb Leo dropped, but it was unfortunate that she couldn’t collect herself instead of overacting the “emotional winner” for her moment. She was almost unwatchable. Portman was gracious and genuine, Firth was lovely and British (what more could we want?) but the true charm of the evening for me came from those behind the camera! Tom Hooper and David Seidler both had lovely speeches seemed and genuinely honored.

  • Kate

    I think the show was boring because no one–except for Anne Hathaway, bless her heart–seemed excited to be there. Hollywood stars take themselves way too seriously these days. At the end of the day, you are entertainers! So, just entertain us and leave the artsy stoicism at home. I think, for some actors, they feel pressure to prove that they are more than what they are. No one cares about your “art” or your “craft.” Just wear a pretty dress, smile, and be charming. There is nothing wrong with be an entertainer for the sake of entertainment.

  • Dawn

    oo bad that little girl didn’t win, I think she deserved it. Anybody rather than that crude piece of work. Very unprofessional.

  • DiMi

    Regarding Leo’s use of profanity: 1. It’s ironic that in the same year that the best picture is a film – The King’s Speech – that reveals the value of profanity, as Colin Firth explains, we are attacking a woman for the use of profanity.

  • DiMi

    2. Leo’s use of profanity was authentic, spontaneous, and funny instead of phony, premeditated, and dull like most award show speeches. I found it shocking, but charmingly and refreshingly so.

    • DiMi

      3. The Oscars are occasionally entertaining, but if you can’t see that they are a stunningly VULGAR celebration of excess and narcissism, then you are tackier than Leo and her cursing will ever be. She said a curse word in front of a room full of people many of whom make millions off of images of gratuitous violence and bad plastic surgery, but she’s the vulgar one? Really? The whole show is vulgar. At least she was honest and candid with her vulgarity.

      The bottom line is that she got excited – a legitimate response to winning an Oscar – and said a curse word; she didn’t kill a puppy. Calm down.

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