image captionEmerald Fennell was one of the big British winners, taking home best original screenplay
The spotlight firmly fell on Nomadland at Sunday’s Oscars, but backstage it was a night of trophy mix-ups and debates about Brad Pitt’s odour.
We spent the night in the virtual press room, hearing how the winners reacted immediately after their Oscar victories.
Here are six backstage soundbites from the 93rd Academy Awards:
1. It’s easy for trophies to get mixed up
image captionFrances McDormand (second left) won best actress for Nomadland while Chloé Zhao (second right) won best director
Nomadland was the big winner on Sunday, winning best picture, best director for Chloé Zhao, and best actress for Frances McDormand.
But with great success, comes great opportunity for identical Oscar statuettes to get mixed up.
While speaking to reporters backstage, Zhao was interrupted by McDormand, who made a very brief appearance in the press room in order to swap their awards.
“Excuse me, this one’s yours, and this is mine,” McDormand clarified. Little gold men duly swapped, she concluded: “OK, bye everybody, bye!” (We didn’t see her again.)
Nomadland tells the story of a woman who travels through the American west, living in her van, taking temporary work, and meeting fellow nomads along the way.
Asked how making the film affected her as a person, Zhao said: “There are a lot of things that changed – one is that I think I definitely need less stuff to live, for sure. I could definitely live with fewer things.” Presumably she’d hang on to her Oscar, though.
Zhao is the first woman of colour to win best director at the awards. “I’m extremely lucky to be able to do what I love for a living, and if this win means more people get to live their dreams, I’m extremely grateful,” she said.
2. Yuh-jung Youn did not take the opportunity to smell Brad Pitt
Possibly our favourite moment of this awards season came earlier this month, when Yuh-jung Youn said her Bafta win meant a lot because British people are known for being snobby.
She’s evidently as unfiltered as the unconventional grandmother she plays in Minari, although she was somewhat humble about being named best supporting actress at the Oscars.
“It’s very happy when you get it, but I don’t believe in competition, especially in our field,” she said. “Because we are comparing different movies, different roles, so I’m just lucky tonight, just luckier than the other nominees.”
Her trophy was presented to her by Brad Pitt – which made for a glorious pairing. Could they ever appear in a film together? “No, that would never happen,” Youn said. “With my English and my age, I don’t think so. I don’t dream the impossible dream.”
She was full of praise for Pitt, however. “When he called my name, I can tell he practised a lot, he didn’t mispronounce my name,” she noted.
But when one reporter asked what Pitt smelled like, Youn gave us the best quote of the night. “I didn’t smell him, I’m not a dog.”
3. Daniel Kaluuya is turning his phone off
Maybe he was nervous, maybe he’d had a drink, but we certainly weren’t expecting what came out of Daniel Kaluuya’s mouth during his acceptance speech.
“We’ve got to celebrate life, man,” he said. “It’s incredible, my mum met my dad, they had sex, it’s amazing, you know what I’m saying? I’m, here. I’m so happy to be alive.”
“What on earth is he talking about?” Daniel’s mum could be seen mouthing as the camera cut to her, while his embarrassed sister buried her head in her hands.
“It just came out of my mouth,” Daniel told reporters afterwards. “My mum’s probably going to text me some stuff, but here we are.” After a few more seconds of reflection, he added: “I really shouldn’t have said that, innit?”
“I’m going to avoid my phone for a bit mate, trust me,” he continued. “I think my mum’s not going to be very happy. But she’s got a sense of humour, we give it to each other, so it’s cool.”
4. Emerald Fennell might still marry Zack Morris
image captionEmerald Fennell wrote and directed Promising Young Woman
The British actress and director won best original screenplay for Promising Young Woman – but her childhood preparation for winning an Oscar sadly didn’t come in useful.
“The only speech I ever wrote was when I was 10,” she explained as she collected her award. “And I had a look to see if there’d be anything useful from it, but unfortunately, I mostly thanked Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell, who was my very supportive husband. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been as much a part of my life as I’d hoped, and so that speech is not that useful.”
Backstage, Fennel was told that Zack Morris had begun trending on Twitter as a result of her speech.
“Oh god, how embarrassing, really? Oh no,” said the star, who is currently expecting her second child with her actual husband Chris Vernon.
But she clearly still holds a candle for her Saved by the Bell crush. “Well actually, if Zack Morris doesn’t mind this situation,” she said, gesturing to her baby bump, “then I think we should give it a go”.
Reflecting on her Oscar win as she held up her trophy, Fennell said: “It’s pretty amazing, but it’s very heavy. Maybe I just need to go to the gym, or maybe I could use him as a weight. I’ve only ever held a pretend one.”
5. Trent Reznor isn’t neglecting Nine Inch Nails
image captionL-R: Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross entering the press room after their win
He might have temporarily swapped performing with Nine Inch Nails for winning Nine Inch Trophies, but Trent Reznor says fans of the band needn’t worry about them giving up their day job.
Together with Jon Batiste and his NIN bandmate Atticus Ross, Reznor took home the prize for best original score for Pixar’s Soul.
“Ten years ago, when we did The Social Network, which is the first film that we worked on, it was such a great experience,” he said. “We just came out of it inspired and re‑energised, and it was working on a medium we hadn’t done before and learned so much, that we felt like, hey, let’s do a Nine Inch Nails record; let’s go on tour.
“And what we’ve tried to do since then is break it up where we do some rock music, we come back and do some film work. We’ve just done three pretty big films in Watchmen, Mank, and Soul in a row. We should be on tour but Covid has prevented that.”
So when will the band be getting together again? “We are planning on working on Nine Inch Nails material as soon as…,” he says, pausing for thought, “…probably tomorrow.”
6. Sir Anthony Hopkins sent a (very late) acceptance speech
Sir Anthony Hopkins gave one of the strongest acting performances of the last year in The Father, and was duly rewarded with a best actor Oscar.
Unfortunately, we were in the dark about what he thought of his win, as he didn’t attend the ceremony or send an acceptance speech.
Luckily, the social media-savvy octogenarian posted a video message on his Instagram account a few hours later.
“At 83 years of age, I did not expect to get this award, I really didn’t,” he said. “I’m very grateful to the Academy, thank you.
“And I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early. Thank you all very much. I feel very privileged and honoured.”
Boseman, who died last year from bowel cancer, was the favourite to win the category for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Elsewhere, Frances McDormand did attend the LA ceremony, but didn’t speak to journalists beyond her quick trophy-switch with Chloé Zhao.
Fortunately for the press, Zhao was a little more generous with her time, and said a few words to journalists on McDormand’s behalf.
“My happiest moment was when Fran won,” she said of the ceremony. “And I think sometimes people might not know what she had done out there, as a producer and as an actress, how open and vulnerable she’s been, and how much she has helped me to make this movie, and helped nomads to feel comfortable. She really is Nomadland, and I’m so happy she got that award.”
Zhao is the second female winner of best director, following Kathryn Bigelow’s win for The Hurt Locker in 2010.
“I had a group dinner with Kathryn once, and definitely fan-girled big time,” Zhao laughs, adding she hopes to meet Bigelow again.
“I’d love to talk to her, if you have her email?”