For the first time since 1987, one of the four acting winners was not present to accept his award: the late Heath Ledger. He was also the only one of the 20 nominated actors not present at the ceremony.
Nicole Kidman had at one point been set to play Kate Winslet's Oscar winning role of Hanna Schmitz in The Reader (2008), but passed on the part due to pregnancy. Also, Marion Cotillard had been briefly considered for the role of Hanna before Winslet was cast. Ironically, both Kidman and Cotillard were two of the presenters who awarded Best Actress winner Winslet her Oscar trophy.
All five Best Picture nominees are contemporary period films: Slumdog Millionaire (2008) (Mumbai, 1990s - 2006), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) (primarily New Orleans, 1918 - 2005), Frost/Nixon (2008) (primarily California, 1974), Milk (2008) (San Francisco, 1970s), The Reader (2008) (primarily Berlin, 1958 - 1995). The films also received nominations for their respective directors.
This was the last year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated five films for Best Picture. Months after the ceremony, the Board of Governors amended the rules to expand the list to a maximum of ten. The last time AMPAS nominated more than five films was in 1943.
Peter Gabriel refused to perform the Oscar nominated song for WALL·E (2008) when the show producers said the song had to be edited down due to its "long" running time. Only the two other nominated songs for Slumdog Millionaire (2008) were presented in the show performed by John Legend as being one full act.