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1 item from 2007


Backstage: Some 'Departed' attitude

26 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

For the latest coverage of the 2008 Academy Awards, go to THR.com/Oscars.

You could see Graham King shoot lasers out of his eyes at the reporter who suggested that "The Departed" might have been a lesser work from Martin Scorsese. King breathed deeply, then answered: "The only thing is that he's won his first Academy Award. ... Whatever he does, he puts his mark on it, and he did that on 'The Departed.' And there's no person that I've spoken to that hasn't enjoyed the value of this Marty Scorsese movie." In fact, for King, seeing Scorsese win his Oscar was more important than winning the award for best picture. "No one in this world loves film, respects film, like Marty. He's the king. I love him to bits," he said. King was asked about the producer credit controversy that dogged the movie. (Brad Grey was not deemed a producer in the Academy's eyes.) "The PGA makes the rules, and we all fill out the forms," King said, adding that Grey did a lot for the picture. "Their decision is their decision."

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The backstage crowd erupted into cheers when Martin Scorsese was named best director, and they erupted again when he entered the room. "It's an overwhelming, overwhelming moment," he said. "And best picture, that's a big surprise. I'm just used to not winning." Scorsese spent a lot of time being asked to contemplate the momentous win. "It's a good thing I didn't get it before. Maybe it would have changed the movies I made," he said. "I'm glad it went this way. When I saw the smile on (presenter) Steven's (Spielberg's) face, I knew something was up." He said he didn't look at the award as a career achievement award. "I do admire the career achievement awards. I saw Howard Hawks get one, and Alfred Hitchcock. But it's a different feeling having been chosen for the year." And being a real trooper, he also said, "The real winning for me is the making of the picture." He was overjoyed that his "three amigos" -- Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Spielberg -- were the ones who handed him his award. "We really worked together. It was really a private film school." And as far as that rumored prequel or sequel to "The Departed"? "It all depends on the script", he said. And what about Robert De Niro in it? "That would be a good idea".

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For weeks, "The Queen"'s Helen Mirren was touted as a sure thing in the best actress category. Still, she herself never entertained thoughts of Oscar glory. "I didn't allow that thought. I didn't go there," she said. Going into the night, the film and theater veteran remained "quite calm." "It wasn't as though I didn't care," the thrice-nominated actress said. "I cared very much. I just felt very honored to be nominated in a year with such great roles for women." So, how does a very proper Brit plan to celebrate her Academy Award? "With a vodka gimlet", said Mirren, who is traveling with a large posse that includes her husband, director Taylor Hackford. With the win, Mirren joins a long list of British thespians who achieved the acting milestone. Still, many of her compatriots, including Peter O'Toole and Kate Winslet, left empty-handed. "I don't think I'm the only big winner (from England)," she said. "For us all to be here is amazing. It's wonderful, but it's not the most important thing. The recognition of film is getting more global, and I think that's an amazing thing."

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Best actor winner Forest Whitaker might have fielded the night's most bizarre question. "I know you're an operatic tenor, and is there a note that you can sing right now that represents how you feel?" He graciously declined. Whitaker did, however, talk about playing Idi Amin, a murderous dictator, and how he tried to find the man's core humanity. "I went to talk to his brothers and sisters, I tried to understand what happened to him as a child. ... You start out with a little child who is making choices and he slowly, slowly covers himself with darkness." Amin, while dark, wasn't "a character that was driving me crazy." Other characters, like that of drug-addled musician Charlie Parker in 1988's "Bird", were tougher. "Waking up with that kind of energy, that's tough. There are characters that I played that didn't want to live. And (Amin) did want to live." Whitaker said this year's Oscars, with its theme of diversity, was "an amazing statement on what's going on." "We have to be connected as a planet. Right now, we need that. We need to understand that this over here is connected to this over here. We have to pay attention. I affect you and you affect me." He also said he hoped that his win would bring positive attention to Uganda, which has a lot of beauty.

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Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" already had scored three Oscars before the best foreign-language film was announced, but though the lavish fairy tale looked unstoppable, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck walked away with the statuette for "The Lives of Others", his drama about East German secret police. "Guillermo, I think he deserves every one of those awards. He is a genius," Henckel von Donnersmarck said. "I talked to him before the awards, and we both said, 'I'll be happy for you if you win.' I'm sad for Guillermo, but not that sad." When asked whether he sees similarities between the early 1980s East German secret police and the Bush-Cheney administration, the German helmer hesitated. "I see where you're going, and I wonder what the Stasi could have done with the technology they have today," he said. "But if we were really in 1984 in East Berlin, and you asked that question, I would call you tomorrow, and you wouldn't be around." Instead, Henckel von Donnersmarck said he takes comfort in the free press. "We have freedom of speech", he said. "There will always be abuse of power, but as long as we can speak up about it, I'm OK with that."

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Perhaps Alan Arkin's victory at bowling during rehearsals for "Little Miss Sunshine" was a sign of things to come. But the veteran actor, who won his first Oscar after last being nominated 38 years ago for "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter", is not about winning. "I feel in a sense like a hypocrite," Arkin said. "I don't believe in competition among artists." The real reason he received the award, Arkin believes, is his age, which is 72. "Everyone thinks I'm going to keel over in a few years," he joked. The actor, who played the curmudgeonly grandfather in the picture, had nothing but good things to say about "Sunshine". From working with "the lovely, delightful, charming" Abigail Breslin, to being locked into the yellow VW bus for hours with the cast, it was all about being a team player. "My main concern is what the entity is going to be like. The part is important to me, but I want to know what the film is about, who the other actors are." The most important question for Arkin was how the cast could hop into the moving bus. "We started at a slow speed and kept increasing it until we knew we'd have to hire stunt people we couldn't afford and the production couldn't afford to lose us."

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"American Idol" loser-turned-Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson has perfected the art of backstage commentary. She was honored just to be nominated for her supporting role as Effie in "Dreamgirls". While disappointed that co-star Eddie Murphy didn't win for his role as James "Thunder" Early, "We're all winners, just for being nominated," she said. But an air of confidence permeated her backstage talk. She shut down reporters who asked about rumored on-set catfighting, and she was comfortable enough to discuss her new house in Chicago. "I'll put my Oscar next to my Golden Globe, my SAG Award and my BAFTA Award," she joked. But she's not big enough to forget her roots. Hudson expressed thanks for "Idol" and said she plans to continue to sing in her church choir in Chicago. "It's my reality. It keeps me grounded," she said. Hudson believes that she has her grandma's voice. Her grandmother never performed professionally, opting to lead more than 100 solos in the church choir. "It's my duty and goal to do this for her," Hudson said. "It's my goal for the world to hear her voice."

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It was an emotional night for Sherry Lansing, the recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Confronted with two surprises during the presentation of her award, Lansing was overjoyed that Tom Cruise was her presenter, and seeing a photo of her mother in the video she watched for the first time with the rest of the world brought her to tears. »

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1 item from 2007


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