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Calendar Goes to the OSCARS : Now, the List Is Complete : Backstage : Social Ills, Good Work and Laughter

March 22, 1994|ELAINE DUTKA and DAVID FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Some were clearly moved and poured out heartfelt emotions.

Others were awed or humbly witty.

And they all clutched the treasured statuettes. . . .

This was the scene at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as newly named Oscar winners came backstage to answer questions of a throng of reporters during and after the Academy Awards ceremonies Monday.

Last, but certainly not least on this of all nights, was director Steven Spielberg, who chalked up 10 Academy Awards with two vastly different films. His Holocaust drama, "Schindler's List," won seven, and his fanciful dinosaur epic, "Jurassic Park," took home three.

"Getting an Oscar has never been a goal of mine," Spielberg maintained, "but anyone who is nominated who denies that it's not a goal at that moment is loopy. Getting three awards for 'Jurassic' came as a big surprise . . . the only one of which I was certain was the award for special effects since I've done so well in that area in the past."

"Schindler's," Spielberg said, is not a political film as much as a "public service" tool for teaching tolerance and combatting ignorance. He said his profits from the film will be donated to Holocaust causes.

"The Holocaust is a footnote in the history books and, until we enlighten the next generation of young people, it will happen again and again," he said. "The subject is nearly impossible for any medium to portray and I was terrified of the responsibility of putting it on a big movie screen. But it would have been more of a tragedy if I was so intimidated that I didn't create the possibility of remembrance."

Holly Hunter, like Spielberg, said she refused to believe the pundits who forecast her best actress win for the role of a mute New Zealander in "The Piano."

"I heard my director (Jane Campion, who won for best screenplay) voted for me but I wasn't sure her ballot got here in time (from New Zealand)."

She said making "The Piano" was a life-altering experience: "It's a thing I know I will have with me for the rest of my life. It changed me personally and professionally. It's been integrated into me, but now I have to go on."

Paul Newman, winner of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, displayed a wit and humility that endeared him to the backstage press. Asked whether his salad dressing or his acting had proven more lucrative, the 69-year-old Hollywood veteran admitted that the former won out.

"My salad dressing has out-grossed my films," he said with a rueful smile. "That's a humiliation I can hardly bear. 'Newman's Own' started as a joke and in order to make it work, I had to exploit myself . . . which was an interesting experience. The company's slogan is 'shameful exploitation in pursuit of the community good.' "

When a reporter commented that Newman, at this stage of his life, looks considerably sexier than his "Color of Money" co-star Tom Cruise, who presented him with the award, the actor blushed.

"I'm lucky to have a pulse," he cracked.

Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen came backstage after winning the Oscar for best original song--"Streets of Philadelphia" written for "Philadelphia," the Jonathan Demme drama about AIDS. Springsteen, who sang the song during the ceremonies, acknowledged that films like "The Grapes of Wrath" and "The Searchers" were as much an influence on him as music and that an Oscar has always been one of his dreams. Still, he said, he found it all a bit awkward.

"It's hard to find a graceful way to accept an award when there's so much suffering going on," he said.

Tom Hanks, winner of the best actor award for his portrayal of an AIDS-afflicted lawyer in "Philadelphia," elaborated backstage on his acceptance remarks about two influential gay men, a teacher and a classmate, he knew in his Oakland high school--one of whom later died of AIDS.

"These are wonderful men whom I met when I was 16 and 17 years old . . . and if I had not had the education, and the friendship of these two men who are homosexuals, I would not be standing here."

"We have a fabulous document that anyone can pick up at any post office," said the actor, who ended his impassioned on-stage acceptance speech with "God bless America." "It's called the United States Constitution and it says that you can live on a block next to a Jew, across the street from Catholics, above a gay couple--people you don't agree with but whose concerns you look out for. That's the America I was not only promised in my 'Weekly Reader' but was told it was my responsibility to make it that way. Tolerance is an idea that must be practiced daily."

Tommy Lee Jones, named best supporting actor for his portrayal of U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard in "The Fugitive," was asked why on Oscar night--when an actor presumably wants to look his best--he showed up uncharacteristically bald. He explained his head was shaved because he's playing Ty Cobb in a Ron Shelton movie. Cobb, the baseball legend, lost his hair in the later days of his life.

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