The 88th Oscars went off seemingly without a hitch on Sunday night, at least that’s what we could tell from the pressroom—minus the lame (Jack) Black History Minute sketch and that inexplicable Stacey Dash appearance. There were a few surprises that managed to induce gasps and applause from the veterans in the press corps, including underdog Mark Rylance’s win for Best Supporting Actor for Bridge of Spies, Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes winning Best Original Song for the much debated Spectre theme, and Spotlight stealing The Revenant’s thunder at the end of the night.
Here’s what we heard and learned about some of the winners in the pressroom:
Members of the Spotlight team—actor Mark Ruffalo, director Tom McCarthy and writer Josh Singer—spent some of their morning protesting with SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in Downtown Los Angeles to call for more transparency regarding abuse in the Catholic Church. After winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Singer and McCarthy talked about what they’d like to share with abuse survivors. McCarthy said, “Our message is: We hear you. You are not alone. There’s no shame in this. Come out. Speak loud. Be heard. And save lives.” He added, “And I think we all agree, inside and outside the Catholic Church, we got to do everything we can to protect the children.”
The Big Short director Adam McKay, who won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay with co-writer Charles Randolph, was asked in the pressroom if we can expect an Anchorman 3. Or will he stick to only high-minded works going forward? McKay said, “My next movie is going to be about cholesterol. And it’s going to be in black and white, and it’s going to be [Dmitri] Shostakovich scoring it. It’s going to be the grimmest movie you’ve ever seen in your life. And Charles is going to write it—while with pneumonia.” (He didn’t say, however, if he envisions Leo starring in it.)
Jenny Beavan, who won the Academy Award for Costume Design for Mad Max: Fury Road, wore a decidedly un-black-tie outfit (a Marks & Spencer’s faux leather jacket decorated with Swarovski crystals on the back). She was asked about controversy stirred up by actor-comedian Stephen Fry at the BAFTAs (who compared a similar outfit that night to a bag lady’s). “I really don’t do frocks, and I absolutely don’t do heels. I simply can’t wear them. I’ve got a bad back—and I look ridiculous in a beautiful gown. And this was an homage to Mad Max and I didn’t get it quite right at the BAFTAs obviously,” she explained. “I just like feeling comfortable. And I’m sorry, as far as I’m concerned, I’m really dressed up.”
Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy took home an Oscar for Best Short Documentary film for A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, which explores honor killings in Pakistan. After she won the Oscar—her second—comedian Kumail Nanjiani tweeted:
Obaid-Chinoy said her next project was going to be an animated short: “I'm actually going into animation because it's so much calmer than doing documentary films.”
Brie Larson, who won the Oscar for Best Actress, was asked to pick a song that described her current mood. Without skipping a beat, she responded with “I'm in Love with My Life” by Phases and started singing a few lines, too.
Producer Jonas Rivera and director Pete Docter, who scored a win for Best Animated Feature for Inside Out, were asked about memorable moments on their film's journey. Rivera talked about meeting Ice Cube when he sat next to the Straight Outta Compton table at a film event. “I'm a huge fan of NWA and Ice Cube,” he said. “I got to meet Ice Cube, and I introduced myself as a producer of Inside Out, not knowing what I'd get, and he said, 'Oh, man, that movie's dope.' And I got to be honest with you, that was a pretty good moment for me.”
Rylance, whose win upset favorite Sylvester Stallone in the Best Supporting Actor category was asked if he thought the statuette was going to fellow nominee Mark Ruffalo. “No, but Mark Ruffalo told me on the red carpet that that had happened to him at the BAFTAs,” Rylance said. “Whoever was giving the award had slowed down after the 'R' and a number of people on his team, as people call it, had looked around to congratulate him, and then the dreadful Y-L-A-N-C-E had come forward and crushed his dreams.”
Director Asif Kapadia and producer James Gay-Rees, who won Best Documentary Feature for Amy, were asked about the criticism on Twitter from the late musician's father (who is not a fan of the film).
“At the end of the day the film is about Amy,” answered Gay-Rees. “She became a bit of a punch bag, she became a bit of a bad gag in the press and this film has opened people’s eyes to her again, and people now understand what a great talent she was and they’ve remembered that. And that’s what our job was. Our job wasn’t to blame anybody up, our job was basically to tell people how great Amy Winehouse was. And I think we’ve done a little bit of that, and I think that that should be enough.”
Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith were positively ebullient in the interview room after winning the Oscar for Best Original Song. Smith’s response when a reporter mentioned that he was not the first openly gay man to win an Oscar: “Shit. Fuck that.” (Other openly gay men to win the Oscar include lyricist Howard Ashman and Elton John.) He also won the night for most cuss words uttered on the pressroom stage.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar acceptance speech for Leading Actor was one of our favorites of the night, and we’re not surprised that his work on climate change made it in there. DiCaprio elaborated backstage about why he chose to talk about the environment, than say, his agents: “I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude for what happened tonight, but I feel there is a ticking clock out there. There’s a sense of urgency that we all must do something proactive about this issue.” DiCaprio even did a little lobbying before the press corps. “With this upcoming election, the truth is this—if you have do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in modern science or empirical truths and you will be on the wrong side of history,” he plainly stated. “And we need to all join together and vote for leaders who care about the future of this civilization and the world as we know it.”
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.