Nominees and winners recall moments of Oscar night
By Duane Dudek
Knight-Ridder News Service
The words "entertainment history" surely are an oxymoron, but after 75 years, the Oscars genuinely qualify as an institution of social and cultural significance. Even if you don't win, you're in good company. Orson Welles, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and 2003 nominee Martin Scorsese are just a few of the distinguished losers.
Every year, more nominees go home with an upscale tote bag than with a statuette. But each also takes home, as a consolation prize, a memory of the experience as banal or sublime. Here are some of those memories.
Dean DeBlois co-directed "Lilo & Stitch," which is nominated this year for best animated film. A rule change allows only one director to be nominated, and co-director Chris Sanders is listed as the official nominee. DeBlois attended the ceremony in 1999 when "Mulan," which he co-wrote, was nominated for best musical score.
Being there: "It was great. So many stars went to the Governor's Ball afterward. I sat by the dance floor and got to see everybody go by."
Rubbed shoulders with: "Judi Dench. I'm a big fan. And I talked to Tom Hanks."
Spanish actor Javier Bardem was nominated for best actor in 2001 as the Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in "Before Night Falls." He lost to Russell Crowe for "Gladiator." Upcoming films are "The Dancer Upstairs," directed by John Malkovich, and the Spanish film "Mondays in the Sun."
Being there: "I had a chance to watch the side of the business I hate the most where you are some kind of a whore, where you have to sell yourself to convince the clients that you are the best. I don't want to do that. But we live in a world where there are many, many, many, many movies. Twenty years ago, if they gave you an award, it was special. Now if you don't have an award, you are nothing.
Veteran actor Morgan Freeman was nominated in 1988 for best supporting actor in "Street Smart," and received best actor nominations in 1990 for "Driving Miss Daisy" and in 1995 for "The Shawshank Redemption." He lost each time. His next films include an adaptation of Stephen King's "Dreamcatcher," due in theaters March 21, and "Bruce Almighty," starring Jim Carrey, in which Freeman plays God.
Being there: "The first time I was nominated, it was right out the box. Boom! So I thought, 'This is right up my alley. I had a Tony nomination, I had four Obie awards. I'm a shoo-in.' Then Sean Connery got it (for 'The Untouchables'). OK. I understand that.
"The next time, with 'Driving Miss Daisy,' I was a 7-to-5 favorite in Las Vegas. And Daniel Day-Lewis got it (for 'My Left Foot'). So I thought, 'OK, this is not your thing.' The third time, with 'Shawshank,' when Tom Hanks got it (for 'Forrest Gump'), I decided we won't get involved with this anymore. I will get one, but it won't be for acting. I don't think I'm going to do better work than in those (films), but I'm going to produce a movie (that will win)."
Theater director Sam Mendes made a seamless transition to film when he won the Oscar for best director in 2000 for his debut, "American Beauty," which also won as best picture. His most recent film is "Road to Perdition."
Being there: "It was a blur. And it wasn't the most relaxed I've ever been. I have reflected on it. When you watch the ceremony the year after, it's the first time you get to put it into perspective. You get to demystify it on some level."
After years as a struggling theater actor, Jim Sheridan struck gold in 1990 with his first film as director, best-picture nominee "My Left Foot." Sheridan received director and screenplay nominations. He lost to "Born on the Fourth of July" director Oliver Stone, and to "Driving Miss Daisy" for best picture and screenplay. In 1994, Sheridan and the film "In the Name of the Father" lost in the same categories to Steven Spielberg and "Schindler's List." Sheridan's new film, "In America," is a semi-autobiographical tale of an immigrant actor in New York.
Being there: "I was flown over (from Ireland) with the whole family. I think the cost of the flight was (the equivalent of) what I had made in the six years before. One day. One flight. It was just mad. It's more fun when you're not churned up about it."
Cinematographer Conrad L. Hall is a legend. His father, James Norman Hall, wrote "Mutiny on the Bounty," and his son, Conrad W. Hall, was the cinematographer for "Panic Room." Conrad L. Hall was born in Tahiti, where he lived until his death in January. He was first nominated for his camera work in 1966 for "Morituri," and earned nominations for "The Professionals," "In Cold Blood," "The Day of the Locust," "Tequila Sunrise," "Searching for Bobby Fischer" and "A Civil Action." He won Oscars for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" in 1970 and "American Beauty" in 2000, and he was nominated posthumously this year for "Road to Perdition."
Being there: "When your category comes up, your heart is in your mouth. I went with my daughter (in 2000), and I remember saying, 'If they call my name, I haven't the slightest idea of what to say.' Then they called my name.
Rubbed shoulders with: At Hall's 1970 win, presenter "John Wayne handed me (the Oscar) and stuck his big paw out and congratulated me. It was a very exciting experience."
Menno Meyjes, a native of Holland, achieved the American dream in 1986 when he was nominated for his screenplay of Alice Walker's novel, "The Color Purple." The film got 11 nominations but didn't win a single Oscar; Meyjes lost to Kurt Luedtke for "Out of Africa." But Meyjes has worked steadily since, writing "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and writing and directing the new film "Max," about Adolf Hitler's life as a struggling artist in the years following World War I.
Being there: "I was thinking, 'No way I'm ever going to win. It's going to be a breeze.' Then I walk in and and I go, 'You moron. You've got a 1-in-5 chance and you don't have anything prepared.' I spent the whole evening, in my own mind, going, 'Ladies and gentlemen ... No, I can't do that.
Members of the Academy ... No, don't say that. I want to dedicate this movie to my mom ...' That's how the evening passed for me. Just sitting there, sweating bullets. The film had 11 nominations and everybody got turned down, and mine was the last of the batch, and I started thinking, 'If I win this Oscar, I'm going to be the first person who is out of the business because of it.'"
Hollywood is becoming less conventional; Spike Jonze is one of the reasons why. The iconoclastic director was nominated in 2000 for his debut feature film "Being John Malkovich," but he lost to Sam Mendes, who directed "American Beauty." His current film, "Adaptation" is nominated for four Oscars this year.
Being there: "It was kind of surreal. You're in there for like five hours. All these actors and directors in the same room, and all this anticipation of what it's going to be like. It was overwhelming. I couldn't take it in until it was over. I was nervous. Very nervous."
Despite having composed scores of film scores "Big," "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Philadelphia," to name a few Howard Shore received his first nomination in 2002 for "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" and won the Oscar. He currently is composing the music for the final film in the trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."
Being there: "When your name is called, you sort of go into automatic mode. It is a very magic moment. (During your remarks,) the signs are flashing telling you to get off the stage. They tell you to talk for a certain amount of time, but they must have counted the walk up to the stage, because just as soon as I got up there the sign was flashing and half my time was gone."
Just because he is one of the most respected actors of our day doesn't mean Ralph Fiennes isn't flabbergasted by the Oscar experience. He was nominated in 1994 for best supporting actor for "Schindler's List" but lost to Tommy Lee Jones for "The Fugitive," and in 1997 for "The English Patient," losing to Geoffrey Rush for "Shine." Fiennes appeared in "Red Dragon," and stars in the upcoming psychological thriller "Spider," directed by David Cronenberg.
Being there: "I was freaked out the first time. I got locked out during the ceremony because I had gone to the bathroom and nobody knew who I was. I was saying, 'But I'm nominated. And my category is up next.' I got in eventually when they opened the exit doors during the first commercial break. I felt all anxious and flustered. The second time, I felt much more at ease. And I got there on time."
Rubbed shoulders with: Daniel Day-Lewis, who was nominated for "In the Name of the Father."
British director Stephen Frears was nominated in 1991 for "The Grifters" but lost to Kevin Costner, who won for "Dances With Wolves." But unlike the actor-turned-director, Frears' career remains healthy. His films include "High Fidelity," "My Beautiful Laundrette," "Dangerous Liaisons" and "Dirty Pretty Things," a new drama about the service industry caste system in London.
Being there: "When you're nominated, it's great. When you lose, it's very depressing. Even though you know you're going to lose. I remember Martin Scorsese, who was nominated for "GoodFellas" that year, was just devastated. It's jolly nice to be nominated, but if you were smart, you wouldn't go."
Jim Rygiel won the visual effects Oscar in 2002 for "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" and is nominated this year for the sequel, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers."
Being there: "I wouldn't miss the award ceremony if I had to swim there" from New Zealand, where he is completing work on the third film. "On your acceptance speech, you turn, face the audience and see every major director, actor and actress staring at you and waiting to hear what you have to say. It is the mystery of the academy as to why certain shows or people get in and others not. Part of it is politics, I believe."
Director Peter Cattaneo's modest feature film debut "The Full Monty" proved to be the little film that could. It remains one of the most successful independent films ever made, and earned Cattaneo an Oscar nomination in 1998 for best director. He lost to "Titanic" director James Cameron.
Being there: "The second time, the process was more familiar. I knew to get there early and stand around a bit. The first time, I just ran in. The second time was great. I relished it. I was struck by how tall I felt. I'm six feet two inches, but I'm huge" compared with some actors.