Taking a stand while taking a bow

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Danny Boyle made a case for independent film — both creative and financial — after his "Slumdog Millionaire" won eight Oscars on Sunday. "It was wonderful to see Heath Ledger's work acknowledged in 'The Dark Knight,' which is extraordinary. Heath, like everyone, started small; we have to protect independent film. That is where everybody begins, those small independent movies where you learn your craft. My first film cost £1 million." Producer Christian Colson reported that "Slumdog" cost £7 million ($10.2 million) to make. "It is going to cross $100 million in the U.S. — that is good business," he said. The pair also raised the topic of globalization. "Bollywood gave us virtually all our cast and crew; we were Brits trapped in the middle of Bollywood and Hollywood. You can see this is going to happen more and more. The world is shrinking a bit. Cultural fusion is a good thing." Before wrapping, Boyle gave a shout-out to his agent, Endeavor's Robert Newman, admitting that he forgot to do so onstage. Of "Slumdog," Boyle said: "It's a love story, but heavily disguised. … It is a chance to get lost in romance." Speaking of which, the pair was asked about a rumored romance between co-stars Dev Patel and Freida Pinto. "I have no idea," Boyle said. Added Colson, "It's not true, unless they are lying to me."

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Best actor winner Sean Penn carried his serious, socially conscious message from the podium to his comments backstage. "What I mentioned from the stage earlier tonight is to see this culture of ignorance, it breeds this kind of hateful expression," he said. "These people had the (anti-gay) signs outside essentially telling you you're less than human," Penn said, adding that he would like to tell them "to turn in their hate card and find their better self." The actor also had dissenting words for President Obama's stance — the president has said he opposes gay marriage — which Penn has said he hopes will change. "I would like to believe that's a political stand right now and not necessarily a future one or a felt one," he said. Penn also dismissed talk that he and fellow best actor nominee Mickey Rourke had any type of feud during the race. "I've known Mickey for over 25 years. I can't speak for his consistent sense of me because he's an excellent bridge-burner at times," Penn said, but he added that the two share a close relationship and Rourke is "someone I've alternatively looked up to and advised." He added that Rourke "quite literally had me almost throughout 'The Wrestler' weeping."

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She finally did it. After walking away empty-handed five times, Kate Winslet won an Oscar on her sixth nomination in 13 years. The best actress award for her role as a former SS guard in "The Reader" brought her a key realization: "Let me tell you," she said, "winning is really a lot better than losing — a lot better." Winslet recently implied that she was going to stop doing nude scenes on film, so when asked which actor to whom she would most like to "pass the nude torch," she responded, "I'm going to go for a woman, actually, and be really controversial." After nearly a minute of thought, she simply said, "Susan Sarandon." On the same subject, Winslet was asked how doing sex scenes for husband-director Sam Mendes in "Revolutionary Road" affected their relationship. "He's used to it," she said. "He'd seen me naked before I'd even met him, for God's sake. The person who was most professional getting through the sexual scenes was Sam. I was pathetic, and he was absolutely brilliant. He's just very accepting of it." The Oscar made her feel like that "little girl from Reading," she said. "My mom won a pickled-onion competition just before Christmas, and that was a big deal." To the local newspaper that printed a picture of her mother's winning jar, Winslet held up her statuette and declared, "There's your next Winslet picture."

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Penelope Cruz, who won the best supporting actress Oscar for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," translated what she said onstage in Spanish. She dedicated the award "to the actors in my country and the people watching at home." She planned to call "Vicky" director Woody Allen right away. "Sometimes I just call to say hello. I adore him; he is so funny, peculiar and unique," she said. "I'm always insecure on set," Cruz continued, adding that Allen always said what he liked and didn't like. "He is honest — that's what counts for me. We trusted in him, and we did the movie in 41/2 weeks. I never doubted the genius of Woody Allen." Asked about her role in the upcoming Rob Marshall-directed "Nine," particularly the "A Call From the Vatican" number and working with Sophia Loren, Cruz said: "I love that number; I think that movie is going to be great. … Sophia is incredible; she has become like my second mom. She is so real; she will sit down and tell stories about Fellini. She is a woman with a heart of gold."

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Dustin Lance Black, original screenplay Oscar winner for "Milk," was not shy about politics when he greeted reporters backstage. Asked what he'd like to see from President Obama, he said there are "a few things I'd love him to do immediately: Repeal 'don't ask, don't tell' and the Defense of Marriage Act." Then he got broader: "For inspiration, we need to look not at Proposition 8 but look back to 1964 (when the Civil Rights Act was passed). No group has ever won full civil rights in this country going state by state, county by county." But he also couldn't resist a more emotional moment. Shedding a tear, Black said, "Harvey (Milk) gave me his story, and it saved my life."

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Simon Beaufoy completed his sweep of major awards by taking home the best adapted screenplay Oscar for "Slumdog Millionaire." On top of a slew of critics' nods, Beaufoy had been honored by the National Board of Review, BAFTA, the Golden Globes and the WGA. He was nominated for an Oscar for his original script for 1997's "The Full Monty," but this was Beaufoy's first trip to the podium, where he was handed his statuette by presenters Steve Martin and Tina Fey. "There are certain places in the universe you never imagine standing," Beaufoy said. "For me, it's the moon, the South Pole, the Miss World podium and here." Backstage, he addressed "Slumdog's" momentum by saying, "It's sort of in the halls of fame now." He also was asked about the young Mumbai actors flown over for the event. Beaufoy admitted that the filmmakers had concerns about the appropriateness of bringing them to the "most lavish ceremony. But they're completely cool about it — they're all running around having a laugh. In the end, it was absolutely the right thing to do to bring them over."

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"The slums were obviously extraordinary because we're encroaching on people's lives," said U.K.-based Anthony Dod Mantle, who won the cinematography Oscar for "Slumdog Millionaire." "At the same time, we had carte blanche and the green light to go in there and basically destroy their daily lives. You'd open a cupboard and have a family of 15 fall out, and that's not something you can control. And even if they say they aren't going to be there, in the next five or 10 minutes they will be there, and there will be dogs and all sorts of things coming at you."

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The Oscar for sound mixing went to the "Slumdog Millionaire" team of Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty. "I dedicate this award to my country. This is history being handed over to me," Pookutty said. Backstage, he elaborated that no technician from India had previously been nominated for an Oscar. "It is glorious for me and my country. … Twelve years ago, there was virtually no production sound (in India)."

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Director Andrew Stanton described "WALL-E" as "the most uniquely personal film that I could have made. I expected it to speak to a minority, rather than a majority. This response gives you a lot of confidence to listen to that little voice inside you." He said Pixar Animation Studios' approach to the film was the same as it is for any other at the company. "We've been trying to show that it's a movie, and we just happen to be using animation to tell it," he said. "We are trying to make the most sophisticated film we can with very deep characters, and we assume that if it is well told, then (viewers of) any age will understand it." Much has been written about "WALL-E's" messages of complacency and protecting the environment, but Stanton said too much was made of those themes. "It's about caring about one another," he said. "I feel that disconnection is going to be the cause of anything bad that happens to humanity. It was connectivity." Stanton added that he's about 18 months into his next film.

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Michael O'Connor won an Oscar his first time out, for costume design for "The Duchess." He already had pulled down awards from BAFTA and the Costume Designers Guild. "I just hope that it opens more doors, and I can afford to be more particular," O'Connor said. "Until this film, none of (my films) has ever been nominated for anything." Well, that's not entirely true, Michael: Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for 2006's "The Last King of Scotland."

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When director James Marsh and producer Simon Chinn wandered backstage after winning for best documentary feature for "Man on Wire," with them was their subject, Philippe Petit, who famously — and illegally — walked a high wire between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. Marsh's look at the stunt in a post-9/11 world lent "a sense of poignancy about the film that lifts it to another level," Chinn said. Marsh attributed the film's popularity not only to its look at an illegal artistic act but also to the fact that "it's a very beautiful fairy tale that just happens to be true." Petit, who performed a magic trick and balanced Chinn's Oscar upside down on his chin before leaving the stage, clearly relished his renewed notoriety. The 60-year-old prankster let slip backstage that he's planning a new stunt in New York for the fall in which he'll walk another high wire to an unspecified library to inspire literacy in children. "I have to keep walking," the Frenchman said. "I am always seeking the ecstatic truth that my friend Werner Herzog is always talking about."

Compiled by Jay A. Fernandez, Steven Zeitchik and Carolyn Giardina
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