A week ago, Hollywood Blvd closed down to traffic as the greatest show on earth, the Oscars, was about to come to town. By Wednesday, the transformation was under way, the red carpet was being rolled out, press slots were being assigned to the world’s media, and upstairs at the Loews Hotel, we were being given a walk-through of the press room. The Oscars is a black tie event, so even if you’re in the press room, you are required to dress up. It is MANDATORY that you wear formal attire. The Oscar publicity team stress this at the walk through and you’re reminded again of that dress code by email.
This was my first year in the press room and I looked for my seat assignment. Sorry readers, no photos to share as there is a strict embargo on unauthorized photos being taken inside the room. There is a lone camera set up by The Academy that sits in the center aisle ready to capture the winners reactions as they file through.
For those new to the scene, this is the room where the winners come after winning their Oscars, and the media waits for each to arrive so we can interview them. It really doesn’t get more exciting than that.
Oscar morning started off with a bit of fog over Hollywood, but that soon cleared and the sun shone over Oscarland.
Obstacle one – Remember the shuttlegate snafu at the Golden Globes? There was none of that going on here. The Oscars had this in the bag. You park your car at a designated place, and a non-stop shuttle service takes you from a pick-up point and drops you off right by Hollywood Blvd. That, or you could attempt to walk and make your way through the maze of security check points with well-informed personnel to guide you in the right direction should you not find your way. Kicking off my heels, I switched to flip flops and figured out where I needed to be. If you looked down, you’d see many women in pumps, trainers – or sneakers as they’re called here — and flats, because it was a long road ahead.
The press room is a hive of activity. Journalists putting together their questions, doing research, catching up, waiting for the ceremony to start. For the record, they do show the full event in the room, muting the audio only when an Oscar winner comes into the room… I’ll comment on that later.
I was seated next to Cindy Adams of the New York Post, Kristyn Burtt from Starpulse, and opposite a team of reporters from The Hollywood Reporter. That’s what you do in the press room, you’re in there for hours, you get to know your table mates.
There was still time to poke around and so I took one last wander down to the red carpet to see the calm before the storm…
Let the show begin… by now you know who won and who didn’t go home with this coveted gold-plated man.
Oh and in case you got hungry, there was plenty of food — ranging from shrimp, sesame chicken, sandwiches, a selection of cheeses, pasta, and cakes. There’s plenty of food and coffee to last the night in case the show runs longer than expected.
The interview room is abuzz. The ceremony begins. Chris Rock takes the stage and laughter rings out. The Oscars program is handed out with the order in which the awards will be handed out. Throughout the night, transcribers sat at the front taking note of the acceptance speeches and backstage interviews. Shortly after, both would land in your inbox if you had opted in.
Chris Rock’s opening monologue was well received in the room. It was time for the first award to be handed out, Best Original Screenplay which went to Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for Spotlight. The film’s final tally by the end of the night would be two Oscars, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture!
All eyes were on the over-sized Oscar statues and the mic, waiting for the first winners to come through. You can hear the first question I asked at the 0.55 mark.
I feel obligated to make a comment about the next winners who came in, Adam McKay and Charles Randolph. This video shows exactly what happened. Watch as the pair come on with Oscars in hand, mind you, they’re probably excited and giddy from their Best Adapted Screenplay win. Listen to the applause, then note how no one has questions, so they’re forced to watch Alicia Vikander be handed her Oscar.
The only reason I make that comment is because the same thing happened the other week at the Oscars luncheon. Adam McKay came into the press room (again, note: not every Academy Award nominee is obliged to enter the press room) and Adam did take the time to field questions. But then, as it was last night, there was an awkward moment before any questions were asked.
After that super awkward moment, before the moderator brought the technical winners into the room, she asked the room in advance if the media had questions. I don’t know, but it’s embarrassing that this even happened. Again, that’s just my observation, someone else who was in the room could completely brush that off. Should I put a disclaimer that any opinions expressed here are my own?
Alas, don’t forget this was my first time in the press room.
ADAM McKAY, you are a champ! A real sport! as us Brits would say.
Watch Alicia Vikander, the belle of the ball, dressed in Louis Vuitton field questions.
Applause and cheers went out when Emmanuel Lubeski won his third consecutive Oscar for The Revenant. That’s my question at 2.04. Pay attention at 2.40 when those continuing to watch the ceremony and listening to the audio through their headsets laugh at something — and Lubeski he has to ask what they’re laughing at. OY!
The first big surprise of the evening was when Best Supporting Actor was handed NOT to Sylvester Stallone, who many had predicted would win, but to Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies. His acceptance speech was considered by some as heartfelt and sincere, but shock had rippled down from the Dolby Theater into the Press Room of the Loews Hotel.
The biggest shock was probably when Best Original Song was presented not to Diane Warren and Lady Gaga but to Sam Smith for Writing’s On The Wall. If the Dolby fell silent, a huge gasp rippled across the interview room. Then the comments began. The most memorable comment being, “What does Diane Warren need to do to win an Oscar? Write a Bond theme?”
This was Warren’s eighth nomination for those keeping track.
Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes who won the Oscar for Best Original Song for the Bond theme was told he actually wasn’t the first openly gay winner to which he replied, “Shit. Fuck that.”
After a stream of other Oscar winners came through the room, including the team from Mad Max: Fury Road. Eventually, it was Brie Larson’s turn. Larson was asked what advice did she have for those who had yet to achieve their dreams, she replied, ” You just have to do it. I mean, I wish that there was any sort of rules or code, but in fact, I think the way you get there is by breaking it, by listening to what’s happening inside of yourself. I personally had many moments of crossroads, probably hundreds of moments of crossroads where I could go the way that people were telling me to go, or I could go the way that felt right within me. And it took me 20 years to be standing here on this stage, but I wouldn’t want it any other way: To be so grateful for all of the hardships that it took to get here and to not be discouraged by it.”
If you haven’t seen it yet, this is the full video of Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro Inarritu backstage. When DiCaprio won, people applauded and cheered, the cheering continued when he took to the stage.
Next came the producers from Spotlight: Michael Sugar, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagon Faust and Steve Golin who won the Oscar for Best Picture. When asked to comment on the two Oscars the film had won, Pagon Faust said it was a huge testament to the Academy in recognizing the importance of the film and the impact it was continuing to have. Rocklin later added that the win held huge meaning for him as the real-life reporters from the Spotlight team were in the audience.
Covering the Oscars interview room was an honor and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s an experience that allows you to meet fellow journalists, make new friends, and share in the giddy moment of the Oscar winners. There’s also an emotional moment that you go through… You feel like you’ve gone on this journey with them. Mere months or weeks before, you’ve probably sat down with 99% of the winners, hearing their stories and their challenges. You’ve probably spoken to them at a party, where they’ve been campaigning endlessly. You feel happy for the publicists who you’ve built relationship with, who’ve pushed and pushed. Tonight, at last, a few of the people with whom you’ve spoken are standing in front of you as Oscar winners, and you’re sharing in this special moment.
And with that the 88th Academy Awards came to a close. The journalists type up their stories. The winners and nominees head to the Governor’s ball and the numerous A-list parties.
For a photographic recap of the Oscars luncheon, the preparation and a few images from Oscar Sunday visit the Awards Daily Instagram page.