YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


The Zone Where It's Hot--and Icy


If the Oscars were a grand and regal duck cruising across placid water (yes, that's right, a duck, just bear with us), then the events onstage would be the feathers. The doings backstage, however, would be the churning parts of the duck below the water--and that's not always a pretty sight. Here's a glimpse at some of the web-footed moments backstage Sunday at the 73rd annual Academy Awards:

4 p.m.: The pride of the Fourth Estate assemble in frigid, carpeted tents behind the Shrine Auditorium to jockey for power-strip plugs for their laptops and bay shrimp served in Styrofoam cups. The chirps of cellular phones and the sound of Red Bull energy drinks opening fill the air. When the coveted order of the awards is made available, a minor frenzy erupts, but no injuries are reported. When TV monitors show Kate Hudson arriving in a dress that looks like a frilly lampshade, the journalists are momentarily distracted from complaining about the icy air-conditioning.

4:30: A reporter from Japan pauses to ask for assistance with her kimono--the silver and orange butterfly bow in the back was crumpled by her freeway commute. By night's end, she will tire of telling people she doesn't know anything special about "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" because it's a Chinese film.

4:50: A young security guard, overwhelmed either by the excitement or the free-flowing, high-caffeine Red Bull, vomits into a trash can near a Reuters reporter.

5: A buzz ripples through the room--the staff has promised to turn down the air-conditioning.

5:30: Roger Ebert, still caked in makeup from his TV gig, arrives in the press room and, as if on cue, the grand gala commences.

5:48: Tim Yip wins the first Oscar of the night--art direction--for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Yip skips the trip backstage to greet the world's press.

5:52: Marcia Gay Harden wins best supporting actress for "Pollock." Her surprise win is met with a boisterous cheer, showing that journalists subjected to frigid temperatures quickly lose any pretense of objectivity. When she gets backstage, Harden faces a crowd of reporters holding numbered placards like auctioneers waiting to be called on. She never stops smiling, even when one writer describes her film as "the little engine that could" and another pronounces the film "Pole-lock."

6:13: Florian Gallenberger, clutching the Oscar for best live-action short, is asked for comment about the looming strikes that threaten to shut down Hollywood film crews. Gallenberger shyly responds that he is a German filmmaker whose award-winning project was shot in Mexico, so he may "not be the right person to ask."

6:29: Benicio Del Toro creates a traffic jam in the cramped, chaotic room set up for print photographers. As shooters crowded on bleachers call out to attract Del Toro's attention, a dour-faced fire marshal tries to clear the bystanders clogging the room. "If you can't do this," he tells a hapless staffer, "find someone who can."

7:28: The "Gladiator" visual-effects crew visits the press room and shares a tender moment from the making of the film that involved an angry tiger clawing a crew member on the buttocks. Nobody laughs. Maybe it's because the air-conditioning is blowing colder then ever. The environment is frostier than Russell Crowe's reactions to Steve Martin's jokes.

7:40: A staffer asks the press room if there are any questions for Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. The dozens of journalist look at each other, shrug or keep their eyes on the monitors piping in Bjork's performance. Finally, two foreign journalists raise their auction signs. "Sorry," the staffer says, "they won't be doing interviews tonight."

7:50: Dino De Laurentiis, shielding his eyes from the bright lights, arrives. A writer asks him if he would like to share a moment from his storied career. "Come closer," he calls out to her, signaling that he can't hear. She speaks louder into a microphone and moves closer. "Sorry," he says, "I don't understand--you come here?" She repeats it, practically shouting. "Oh," he says finally. "You want to hear the story of my life." De Laurentiis goes on to charm and confuse the press audience with long tales in Italian and English, while over his shoulder, the monitors show Bob Dylan via satellite singing, "The next 60 seconds may seem like an eternity. . . ." from his winning song, "Things Have Changed."

8:30: After huge cheers for Russell Crowe and then Julia Roberts taking top acting Oscars, the press corps begins grumbling that the winners aren't being shuttled back until the end of the show.

8:52: "Gladiator" is named best picture and the applause-weary backstage scene musters one final cheer. No rolling blackouts struck, the show came in under 3 1/2 hours, and no hypothermia cases were reported in the frigid tents. Security guards are overheard reciting their favorite lines from "Gladiator" and, strangely, "Taxi Driver." It's clearly time for people to go home.

Los Angeles Times Articles