Between the laughs and levity, this year’s Academy Awards got emotional—like something’s-in-my-eyes or punch-in-the-gut emotional. From John Legend and Common’s performance of “Glory” to speeches that reminded the audience to call our parents and stay weird, plenty of powerful scenes unfolded onstage. Backstage in the pressroom, however, a number of other moments resonated with the generally jaded press corps, which isn’t an easy feat.
Here’s what surprised us, confused us, and made us laugh and cry back in the Oscars press room.
12. Patricia Arquette was on fire: The Best Supporting Actress schooled the press with a short history of women’s rights in America and blasted the Mani Cam. “Instead of getting a manicure, which I was supposed to do this morning for that dreaded Mani Cam, instead, I ended up trying to pull pictures because we started a sweepstakes this morning for our charity [givelove.org] to do ecological sanitation in the world…. I never saw this moment in me winning an Academy Award. I never even thought I would be nominated, and I was okay with that. But you know what I did see? I saw many things that have come true in my life, and one of them was helping thousands and thousands of people, and I have, and I will, and I will help millions of people.” The room then broke into spontaneous applause.
11. Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons’ advice to a working actor who’s thinking of giving up: You know, I read a very romantic book when I was young, when I was in college, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and I’ve always felt that if you are in any kind of an artistic, creative endeavor and you feel that there’s something else you could do for a living and be happy, I think you should do something else because you are much more likely to find comfort and happiness. And if you can look deeply within yourself and honestly answer that there is nothing else that will bring you satisfaction, then there’s your answer.”
10. On breaking suicide’s stigma: Dana Perry, producer of “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” talked about her personal connection to the film’s subject of military suicides. “I lost my son. He was 15 when he killed himself; and since that happened, I think I said something like, ‘We need to talk about suicide out loud to try to work against the stigma and silence around suicide,’ because the best prevention for suicide is awareness, and discussion, and not trying to sweep it under the rug. We’ve got a crisis with our veterans who are killing themselves. More veterans have killed themselves than have died in these wars of the last, you know, decade or so.”
9. On a much, much lighter note: Perry was asked about host Neil Patrick Harris’ poking fun of her wrap, which was adorned by fuzzy balls (pictured above at left). NPH was criticized on social media for his “insensitivity,” but Perry laughed aloud when she heard his joke for the first time in the press room. “Well, that is adorable, and I invite anyone to feel my furry balls.”
8. “Feast” inspiration: Director Patrick Osborne [winner for Best Animated Short] took one-second videos of all his dinners in 2012. There’s a short version floating around the Internet, and he might put the director’s cut out there. Or maybe not. “You watch all your meals in an entire year, and you can see where your dieting is not working and why you’re gaining weight.”
7. Jake LaMotta, jazz drummer: Tom Cross, the winning film editor of Whiplash, said that director Damien Chazelle always wanted to “make an action movie first and a music movie second…. So he knew that the musical scenes, and the rehearsing, and the practicing would be fast and would be brutal. He wanted it to be ferocious. He said he wanted the musical scenes to feel like boxing scenes from Raging Bull.”
6. Boxers or briefs: It wasn’t enough that Alejandro González Iñárritu talked about wearing Michael Keaton’s infamous tighty whities from Birdman for good luck, but Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris had to don a pair of his own for a Birdman spoof—just as Pawel Pawlikowski, director of Ida, stepped up to the press room mic. Can you say distracting?
5. The Citizenfour team is quite serious (even after winning the Oscar for feature documentary). When producer Mathilde Bonnefoy was asked how she would celebrate the win, she shut down the reporter: “That’s not the kind of… We prefer serious questions.”
4. Stay weird: When there are no winners at the podium in the Oscars’ press room, the telecast’s volume gets turned up. Graham Moore (pictured above), who gave a moving speech after winning Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, got a rousing round of applause from the press corps, who are generally busy typing and Tweeting away.
3. Redmayne’s nerves: When asked if he were nervous tonight before his win for Best Actor, Eddie Redmayne said that he was more nervous as part of the Les Miserables’ contingent in 2013. “I had to sing live on stage, and just before going on, someone with a headset said, ‘Yeah, that’s a billion people watching,’ and that’s too much stress for your vocal chords to possibly consider.”
2. The Common platform: When John Legend and Common were asked about using the Oscar platform for sociopolitical purposes, Common (whose real name is Lonnie Lynn) said, “I feel like, to whom much is given, much is required. And the fact that we have an opportunity to get to a stage like the Oscars, how could you not say anything, especially representing a film like Selma, representing the song ‘Glory,’ and just honestly being an artist that cares.”
1. Ripping off the condom with Birdman: Leave it to Birdman’s winning writer/director Iñárritu to give the press one of the night’s most colorful Oscar quotes: “I think fear is incredible—fear is the condom of life, you know… So I did [Birdman] without and this is the result. It was real. It was making love for sure.”
Photo credits: John Legend and Common: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.; Patricia Arquette: Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.; Dana Perry and Ellen Goosenberg Kent: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.; Graham Moore: Mark Suban / ©A.M.P.A.S.; John Legend and Common: Aaron Poole / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.