Oscars: What the Winners Are Saying Backstage

6:42 PM 2/28/2016

by THR staff

Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander and more winners elaborated on the honor.

Alicia Vikander Best Supporting Actress GETTY - H 2016
Kevin Winter/Getty Images


  • Best Director: Alejandro Inarritu

    “I couldn’t be more happy,” said Alejandro G. Inarritu backstage, who has now won the director award two years in a row. “Every film is like a son. You can’t like one film more than the other. I think this experience and sharing this with Leo and the crew — I think the award that I’m getting is on behalf of all of them.” The director spoke about what storytelling means to him: “I think storytelling is for us a way to confront a huge amount of emotions and possibilities. … It’s a way to control life. To have an oxygen capsule of life without suffering for real that can teach us for when the times come for being in love or when we have a problem.” He was asked about the way diversity is being discussed in the industry, and the Mexican director said he feels that many minorities need more representation in the industry. “I think we are Native Americans, we are Latin Americans. … I think it’s becoming very politicized, without observing the complexities of how mixed this country is,” he said. “We are still dragging those prejudices and tribal thinking at this time — it seems to be absolutely absurd.”

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: Leonardo DiCaprio

    “This film to me was exemplary in the sense that I got to work with a director that all the things that we talked about off-camera transferred onto the screen,” said the actor backstage. “It is incredible that two outsiders likes Chivo and Alejandro, who came from Mexico to the movie industry, have achieved everything they have.”

    When asked about how it feels to hold his first Oscar, Leo said: “I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude, but there is a ticking clock out there and a sense of urgency. … If you do not believe in climate change you do not believe in scientists and you will be on the wrong side of history.”

  • Best Actress in a Leading Role: Brie Larson

    “I feel really strong and excited to be holding this gold guy that I think is an incredible metaphor for how I feel inside,” said Brie Larson, waving her Oscar trophy backstage after her win for best actress.

    The first-time winner looked back at her life a year ago. “This time a year ago I was still trying to figure out who I was,” she said. “The movie was done, but I was still in deep searching. … I was so far away from where I was. … The weird part is I’m standing here now completely myself.” Larson, who has been working since she was a child actress, added that making Room was about her “own search for freedom” and revealed that the film gave her some idea about the challenges of being a parent. Again, looking back at her career, Larson added: “It took me 20 years to be standing here on this stage — but I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Mark Rylance

    “I don’t know where I’ll put it yet,” said Mark Rylance when asked where he would place his new hardware. But Rylance didn’t want to view himself as a winner over his fellow nominees. “I’ve had people come up and say things about competing as actors. I know it’s necessary to make a show out of it, but I feel more like I’m a spokesman,” he said, mentioning his respect for the work of his colleagues. 

    He revealed that Steven Spielberg, who directed him in Bridge of Spies, had previously offered him two different roles in Empire of Sun, but he turned them down to work on a play. “Though the season of plays didn’t go that well, I met my wife on the first day, so it turned out to be an all right call,” he said. He told reporters that he had thought about what he would say onstage, but didn’t prepare a speech word-for-word. ‘I always think about what I’m going to say. I choose two or three options for what I’ll say. … I think it’s best to try to be spontaneous, with preparation.”

  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Alicia Vikander

    “I had my mom next to me,” said Alicia Vikander, star of The Danish Girl, of her first thoughts when she won. “Every year, I set the alarm clock at 2 a.m. to watch [the Academy Awards]. To have my mom’s hand and to experience being here in this room was pretty cool.”

    Vikander said her parents always gave her the best advice that she’d share with other aspiring actresses: “My parents have always told me ‘You can actually do it.’ There’s been so many doubts but apparently a lot of things can be possible, things I couldn’t have ever believed.” Vikander, who said she plans to celebrate with a “glass of wine” with her friends, said she even “brought a short dress so I can bounce and dance in it.”

  • Best Original Screenplay: 'Spotlight'

    “It’s electric; it’s really exciting. You certainly don’t start a movie like this thinking about awards — you just want to get it right,” said Tom McCarthy of winning the first Oscar for the night. Josh Singer added that the film about the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal had led to some “positive developments,” but that there have also been setbacks. “We were disheartened when two days later they suspended Peter Saunders, who was one of two survivors on the [Vatican's sex abuse] panel, because he was pushing for change too hard,” said Singer backstage.

    Singer added that the support of the Boston Globe reporters was vital to the film. “I wanted to say that some of the best pieces in the movie came right out of The Boston Globe,” he said. When, near the end of their interview backstage, a cord dropped down from the lights above the two co-writers, McCarthy joked: “That was the Catholic Church ladies and gentleman. That is the power of the Catholic Church.” But on a serious note he added: “I think we all agree, we have got to do everything we can to protect the children."

  • Best Adapted Screenplay: 'The Big Short'

    "I thought it was really great," said Adam McKay about Chris Rock's opening monologue. When asked if an Anchorman 3 was in his future, McKay said his next movie will be "about cholesterol and it will be shot in black in white, and Charles [Randolph, The Big Short co-writer] will write it while he has pneumonia, and it will be the grimmest thing you will ever see."

    In his acceptance speech, McKay asked viewers not to vote for politicians who take money from big banks. When asked backstage if he was referencing a specific candidate, he said: "I did not. That was the amazing thing about this movie; Bill O'Reilly and Bernie Sanders both support this movie. It is not right or left. Big money has taken over this government. Just Google it; you can see what the candidates have been paid." 


  • Best Costume Design: 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

    “When it all comes together with all of the elements, it is much greater than the sum of its parts,” said Jenny Beavan. “We work incredibly closely. Visually, work between us had to be seamless. It was a real piece of teamwork,” she said of the film's director, George Miller, adding that his “mind is just so extraordinary, and I am up for any challenge.”

    When asked about her Oscar outfit, the costume designer said, “I really don’t do frocks, and I absolutely don’t do heels. This was an homage to Mad Max, and I have a little Swarovski on the back. I just like being comfortable, and as far as I'm concerned I am really dressed up.”

  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling: 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

    George Miller was the compass that led Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin in their makeup and hairstyling choices. “For me, he starts talking and you start visualizing,” said Vanderwalt. “There was this massive office, so there were different story boards and different artists. You had to go in there and start thinking along with George. You could create your own world with George’s stamp of approval on it.” The trio said there were plenty of challenges on set, including “metal, sand and stunts.”

    “It was a very physical film,” said Martin.

    When asked about which actor had the toughest day in the makeup chair, Wardega revealed it was Nicholas Hoult: “We had Nicholas Hoult in the makeup chair for about two to two and a half hours a day.”

  • Best Production Design: 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

    Production designer Colin Gibson emphasized working with the other departments on Mad Max. Of the film’s shooting location, the production designer said, “Namibia is a fantastic country and location, the crew were terrific. But hold off on going. I’m going back on a holiday and I don’t want to crowd it.”

    When asked if he wanted to see more female-driven action films, he said, “If Michael Bay is listening, I’m still waiting for a decent Transformers with tits.”

  • Best Film Editing: 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

    “Women are underrepresented? That is an understatement,” answered Margaret Sixel, when asked about women in Hollywood. “But I think it will change and I think it is already changing.” On the the difficulties of editing Mad Max, she said backstage: “I have learned so much on it. Cutting this [film] was extremely difficult. I am just happy to take this knowledge on to another film.”  

    Would she do another Mad Max? “I would like to do a small film in between. Something simple that we could cut in six weeks.”

  • Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki

    Asked about his third consecutive win, the Revenant cinematographer responded, “I never saw the Academy Awards as a competition. I think some of you guys created it. It’s a celebration of the craft and art. It shouldn’t be viewed as a competition. We are not running 100 meters.”

    “The four other cinematographers that were sitting there with me [the nominees Roger Deakins, Ed Lachman, John Seale and Robert Richardson],” Lubezki said when asked what cameramen are his idols.

  • Best Sound Editing: 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

    The George Miller love fest continued backstage with the winners of best sound editing. “Around such an amazing guy, everyone rises to the occasion,” said David White of the Australian director. Mark Mangini added: “He’s not a micromanager. He doesn’t say ‘do this, do this.’ He asks.” The sound editors said the biggest challenge for them was making sure everything felt authentic in the dry, postapocalyptic world. “Everything had to be believable because it’s a world where civilizations crumble. ... It had to have an authenticity to it, which George was very serious about,” said White.

    As for what Miller should do next (rumors of another Mad Max film have been looming), White joked: “I would encourage him to do a really boring relationship drama sitting around a kitchen table so he can shoot it in three weeks.” During their acceptance speech, Mangini let a swear word slip out, and when he was asked backstage if he had any regrets, he joked: “I’m gonna hear it from my wife, so that’s the biggest regret there is.”

  • Best Animated Feature: 'Inside Out'

    Director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera, who brought emotion to life in their film Inside Out, were very happy to be backstage at the Oscars. “There were many attempts to make emotions visual — we talked to scientists who said, ‘Possibly the most complex thing in the universe is the human mind’ and we said, ‘Great, we just decided to make a movie about that,’” remembers Docter. “It was a big hunk of life, but we love our process and our team so much that it is a heartbreaker when it is over.” 

    When asked about diversity in the animation field, Rivera offered: “You look at all the noms in animation and they are so diverse — from Japan and Latin America and good ol' California. We crave stories, and stories come for everywhere”

    On his favorite awards season moment, Rivera recalled: “I am a huge fan of N.W.A, and we were sitting next to them at an award table, and I introduced myself as the producer of Inside Out, and Ice Cube said, ‘Oh man, that movie is dope.’” 

  • Best Visual Effects: 'Ex Machina'

    “I don’t think any of us felt that [the film’s $15 million budget] was an issue,” said VFX supervisor Andrew Whitehurst of lead VFX house Double Negative. “The nominated films, they are all so different. It’s an amazing range of films. To me, that was the most exciting part of being a nominee. I don’t think we felt pressure, but I’m not going to lie, it’s astonishing to think that we were the ones that ended up winning it.” When asked about working with Garland, he said, “It’s pretty rare in VFX to be asked to do something soft and delicate, and that’s the brief that [director Alex Garland] gave us. We were less rather than more.”

    Asked about being a woman in the VFX business, Sara Bennett said, “I was a company founder, so as a manager it made it easier for me. I’ve been doing this for 17 years. There are a lot of brilliant women who had been doing it already. We need more. [To get there] takes personality, and confidence and you have to want it. It’s fun but it’s hard work.”

  • Best Animated Short Film: 'Bear Story'

    Bear Story, from writer-director Gabriel Osorio and producer Pato Escala, out of Punkrobot Animation Studio in Chile, follows a bear who is separated from his family when he is taken to perform in a circus. Earlier this week as AMPAS' Oscar week Shorts program, Osorio said the 10-minute short was inspired by his childhood in Chile, during which the political unrest meant that he grew up not knowing his grandfather.

    Backstage, Osorio said this is an “amazing opportunity to get the message across that a family shouldn’t be separated for a political reason or any reason. … We really hope we can get this message to the next generation of kids so they don’t make the same mistakes again.” Added Escala: “It’s the first Oscar for our country, so we are going to say #OscarsSoChilean.”

  • Best Documentary Short Subject: 'A Girl in the River'

    “The power of being nominated for an Oscar does mean for a country like Pakistan that you can change the laws,” said director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, adding that she recently screened the film for government officials. The short doc follows a woman in Pakistan sentenced to death for falling in love. 

    When asked about living in Canada while being a Pakistani filmmaker, the director said: “When you live in a country like Canada you begin to realize how right things can be, and when you got back to Pakistan you can see how things go wrong. You need to strive to make a place like Pakistan a better country.”

  • Best Sound Mixing: 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

    “I think it will make a lot of filmmakers take bigger risks,” said Gregg Rudloff of Mad Max. “George [Miller] at 71 had all of us rise up and do our best work.” Added Chris Jenkins, “Working with George was embracing our passion for sound in the storytelling.

    When production sound mixer Ben Osmo was asked about the on-set challenges, he said: “The vehicles were noisy, and there was no way out of it. But George had to listen to the performances and hear the takes. [Cinematographer] John Seale couldn’t hear a thing. It was impossible for them to hear each other. I set up a communication system so George could talk to John.” Rudloff added that the team “got along spectacularly well." Adding, "Tomorrow will be a sad day when we go our separate ways.”

  • Best Documentary Feature: 'Amy'

    “The perception of Amy [Winehouse] has changed,” said Asif Kapadia, director of the documentary about the iconic singer. “Particularly in the U.S., people would sum her up in one word: ‘trainwreck.’ … there’s so much more to her.”

    Producer James Gay Rees was asked backstage about the controversy of Winehouse’s father disagreeing with the documentary and speaking out against it on Twitter. “At the end of the day, the film’s about Amy. She became a bit of a punching bag in the press, and this film has opened their eyes to her again. That was what our job was, to tell people how great Amy was, and I think that that should be enough,” he said. “When I started learning about her I started falling in love with her,” said Kapadia, who started working on the documentary about Winehouse about a year after her death. “That was part of the mission of the film: To get people to think next time before they write that nasty tweet or article.”

  • Best Original Song: "Writing's on the Wall"

    "A drink is in order. We are going to party. We are going to turn up," said Jimmy Napes on how the songwriting duo plans to celebrate their win. Sam Smith added: "I am gonna destroy some burgers and chocolate cake in a second. And beer."

    When asked if he would be reaching out to Ian McKellen, whom Sam Smith mentioned in his Oscars speech, the singer said: "I don't know him. I would love you have his number. I really like Gandalf." He continued: "I wanted to take this opportunity to show how much I care about my community. I just wanted to make it clear how much I truly care about the LGBT community."

    Smith concluded: "We are completely overwhelmed. We really can't speak. I am a little bit drunk as well."

  • Best Live-Action Short Film: 'Stutterer'

    “I think for Irish film we had an amazing year,” said director Benjamin Cleary. "I saw Room, Brooklyn— I thought they were incredible. Room — I watched and cried. For Irish film, getting nominations like this is a win. I’m honored to be in the same conversation. Hopefully it’s the start of something.”

    He added of making Stutterer: “It was amazing to have people that supported the vision and wanted to make it happen as much as I did. I’m honored to have shared this with best friends.”

  • Best Picture: 'Spotlight'

    “I think we knew journalists were important, but I don’t think we understand the impact it could have on a global scale,” said producer Blye Pagon Faust of what she learned about journalism during the filmmaking process.

    Michael Sugar said of his Oscars speech where he made a plea to the pope, “I don’t remember anything I said at this point.” He continued: “I hope you as journalists will help resonate our message all the way to the Vatican. These things are still happening. The story of Spotlight has just begun.” He added: “I had visualized this for many months about this night and in my visualizations I always thought Morgan Freeman would be saying ‘Spotlight.’ When you hear your name called I don’t know how you can describe that emotion.”