It's not every day that Hollywood icon Robert Redford gets upstaged. But then again, the 74th annual Academy Awards wasn't your "everyday" Oscar ceremony. The honorary Oscar recipient was in the midst of fielding reporters' questions backstage when onstage Denzel Washington became the first African-American thesp in nearly four decades to win best lead actor. With the majority of the press under their headphones and glued to the monitors, Redford realized there was only one thing to do: He temporarily halted the Q&A so he too could listen in.
Pity the Oscar winner who was in Redford's place when Halle Berry was named best actress the only African-American to ever win in that category. Actually, go ahead and pity foreign film victor Danis Tanovic as he was in that unenviable position. On hearing Berry's name called out, the entire press room leapt to their feet in excitement just as Tanovic was about to explain what his next project would be. Sadly, unlike Redford, the No Man's Land filmmaker seemingly oblivious to the fact that no man or woman was paying attention to him forged on with the questions. (It was not a pretty sight, folks.)
Of course, there were no such interruptions when it was Berry's turn to meet the press. On entering the room, she was greeted with a second standing ovation. The still-emotional Monster's Ball actress confessed that she was temporarily paralyzed when Russell Crowe declared her, and not Sissy Spacek, the winner. "I thought I wasn't going to make it up the steps," she said. "I thought, 'God, just don't let me embarrass my mother.'" Even Washington commented on Berry's fragile mental state. "I was just taking pictures with [her] and she doesn't know where she is," he cracked. "She's gone." (Quick side note: In case you were wondering why Berry ended her acceptance speech by thanking Warren Beatty, a little birdie told TV Guide Online the reason. Apparently, Beatty once advised her to hire a different acting coach for every film.)
Like Berry, Washington also received a second standing ovation in the press room albeit a less enthusiastic one. (C'mon, the guy already won a gold dude.) However, in contrast to Berry, the Training Day thesp seemed to downplay the role race has played over the years in determining who wins an Oscar noting that up until this year, Caucasian singer-songwriter Randy Newman was batting 0-15 with the Academy. "What would he say on the 15th time when he lost? Was that racism?" In fact, when a reporter asked him what it felt like to be a part of Oscar history, he replied: "I'm a part of history because of why...?"
Alright, so enough about the race card. Here's what else had people buzzing backstage...Love Story director Arthur Hiller who picked up the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award responded to a Friday New York Post report that said Ryan O'Neal had only 48 hours to live. (O'Neal looked alive and well when he presented Hiller with his trophy alongside Love Story leading lady Ali MacGraw.) "He's doing very well and in remission," Hiller said. "[He's] going back to being fine and dandy." (Related blind item: A little-known radio personality was overheard bragging that she dated O'Neal at one time.)Howard Shore who won for his Lord of the Rings score didn't realize that as he was making his way to the dais, his wife flashed her hand to the camera. (She had "Hi Meg" scribbled on her palm.) So, who's this mysterious Meg gal? "It's my daughter," he told TV Guide Online. "I didn't know [anyone] saw that." (We don't miss a thing, buddy.) The tireless Academy crew ran a tight, well-organized ship backstage. (FYI: The jumbo shrimp cocktail? Very nice touch.) Still, we do have one tiny suggestion for next year: Have translators on standby during the press conferences. Four different winners engaged in spirited conversations with foreign journalists using their native tongue leaving most of us wishing we had brought our copy of French and Italian for Dummies. Not all Oscar nominees are treated equal. Christopher Boyes who won for Pearl Harbor's sound editing lamented the fact that he didn't get the full royal treatment on arriving at the new Kodak Theatre. "I was disappointed that we didn't get to walk on the inner circle of the red carpet," he confessed. "Not for my ego, but for my friends and family at home." Sounds like someone's got a big ego... Lord of the Rings techie Mark Stetson who won for visual effects offered a sneak preview of the second installment, The Two Towers (due Dec. 18). "We're going to have a fully computer-generated character in this one," he revealed. "[He's] a villain and plays a huge part." Meanwhile, Stetson's Rings colleague, Oscar-winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, said he doesn't think Lord of the Rings Part Deux will receive the 13 Oscar nods the first pic did. "I expect this is a novelty this year," he conceded. "The second film is a little grittier."A Beautiful Mind's winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman wasn't about to let his victory be overshadowed by the swelling controversy surrounding the film's accuracy. Asked whether the accusations bugged him, he responded: "I think there's been so much said about the [controversy] that I'd just rather dwell on the joy of this evening." Translation: Yep, it bugged him.Mind producer Brian Grazer conceded that "he would have liked it" if the film's star, Russell Crowe, had beaten Washington in the hotly-contested lead actor race. Then, Grazer seemed to insinuate that Washington didn't win specifically for his performance in Training Day. "Denzel has worked a long time and [has] been nominated many times," he said, "and, you know, the Academy, of course, would recognize that." Yikes! Native New Yorker Woody Allen who made his first trip to the Oscars to sing the praises of Gotham post-Sept. 11 explained his aversion to award shows. "I don't feel comfortable with competition," the three-time Oscar winner said. "But when I [was offered] an opportunity to do this for the city, it was a different story." Asked to pick his favorite film, the legendary filmmaker singled out 1992's Husbands and Wives. "It was not an overly popular film," he said, "but it gave me a lot of pleasure." Where was Will Smith during the best actor presentation? According to an ABC rep, the Ali nominee and his wife Jada Pinkett had to go home "for personal reasons." After waiting four hours for Jennifer Connelly to come backstage, reporters were informed that the Beautiful Mind supporting actress winner only had time for four questions. (Was that one for each hour?) Regrettably, not one of those darn questions was, "What did you whisper to co-star Russell Crowe en route to the stage?" Instead, she was asked the same lame questions posed to her at every award show this season: "What was it like meeting the real Alicia Nash?" and "What's it like to win all these awards?" Here's another one: "Where's Barbara Walters when you need her?" When all was said and done, it was Hollywood's new golden girl that gave the night's best quotes. "[I'm] going to party probably until noon," Berry said. "Until noon tomorrow you'll see [me] driving around [Hollywood]. That's what I'm going to do."