[Only IN Hollywood] As Ryan Gosling killed it onstage, what were some Oscar winners saying backstage?

Ruben V. Nepales

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[Only IN Hollywood] As Ryan Gosling killed it onstage, what were some Oscar winners saying backstage?

KILLING IT. Ryan Gosling totally stealing the show with "I'm Just Ken." AMPAS

Trae Patton

'Being in the Academy press room, where the newly minted Oscar winners are brought for a round of questions, is always a challenge for us journos!'

LOS ANGELES, USA – Backstage at the 2024 Oscars, as Ryan Gosling was killing it onstage with his pull-out-all-the-stops Ken-ergy, several of the winners gave sobering answers to the assembled journalists’ questions.

Being in the Academy press room, where the newly minted Oscar winners are brought for a round of questions, is always a challenge for us journos even though we are so used to multitasking.

While taking notes for our stories, posting updates on social media, and wolfing down a sandwich, the writers pay attention to the show being screened on monitors all over the room and also listen to the trophy-holding talents answering our questions.

When there are winners in the room, replying to questions, the sound of the monitors showing the action inside the Dolby Theatre is turned off. Each year, the Academy provides wireless headphones to the journos so they can, if they want, still listen to the show even as the Q&As are happening in front of us.

Or they can listen to the show proceedings and the Q&A at the same time. It’s truly a multitasking reporter challenge.

But some winners’ thought-provoking replies made me drop my headphones several times and just made me listen and jot down their compelling answers.

Mystlav Chernov
Adult, Female, Person
TEAM MARIUPOL. Raney Aronson-Rath, Mstyslav Chernov, and Michelle Mizner pose backstage with the Oscar for Documentary Feature Film. AMPAS

Mystlav Chernov, director of 20 Days in Mariupol, which won best documentary feature, and his team walked into the press room to applause. A gripping account of the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, 20 Days in Mariupol marked the first Oscar of Mystlav and The Associated Press, which produced the documentary with PBS’ Frontline.

Mystlav, whose gold statuette joins his numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and journalism honors, said, “I just want to remind that yesterday was the anniversary of an attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol.”

“It’s a significant moment, it’s a symbolic moment, and that moment became a symbol of the invasion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the symbol of war crimes that they did there.”

“Right now, unfortunately, Ukraine and the topic of support in Ukraine became a bargaining chip for a lot of politicians in the world. I hope I remind everyone with our film that this is a humanitarian catastrophe and this is not a political question.”

“This is a humanitarian emergency and a matter of supporting the civilians who are being attacked and killed. It’s not my job to try to convince anyone of anything.”

“Our job is to provide as much context and information as possible and I hope that decisions will be made but according to this information that we are giving.”

On whether the awards season was a jarring experience, the filmmaker, journalist, and novelist stressed that the war in his homeland stayed on his mind.

“It has been almost three years since Mariupol was occupied, and all these years, it was never past for us,” he began.

“It was always every day we thought of the people of Mariupol and other cities that were occupied after that. And there were many neighborhoods, Bakhmut, Marinka, Avdiivka recently, Soledar, Popasna, countless villages.”

“So Mariupol for us never represented just Mariupol. It represented all of those cities that are being destroyed.”

“And every step of this journey, we kept reminding, and now we had an honor to be talking about Ukraine and about those cities that have been occupied, and an honor to be reminding the world about the importance of thinking of how to stop this invasion.”

“So, yeah, it’s been a privilege but it’s been a strange, painful experience at the same time. Because I’m standing here but my heart is in Ukraine. My heart is with all the people who are now suffering, losing their lives and homes, and fighting for their land.”

“Those who are in the jails, just locked. I don’t know how I can fix it. I don’t know whether I should try. But I hope that this win will elevate this story to more people and they will see us and will hear Ukrainians.”

Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Lady, Person, Clothing
DIVINE. Da’Vine Joy Randolph poses backstage with the Oscar for Actress in a Supporting Role. AMPAS

While Da’Vine Joy Randolph was visibly overcome with emotion when she heard her name announced as the best supporting actress victor for Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers, by the time she reached the press room, she was her usual composed and eloquent self.

On keeping her mental and emotional well-being in the tough entertainment field, and putting all the best supporting prizes she collected throughout the awards season in proper perspective, the Yale alumna said, “I think you’d be selling yourself short if you make it about the awards. It’s too hard of a career.”

“The beautiful and the hard thing about being an actor is that it requires you to have resilience, self-confidence, and belief in yourself when no one else does, when you are constantly getting no’s and you’re saying, nope, I’m going to keep going.”

“So, actually, in many ways, while it can challenge your mental health, it also can strengthen it because you have to fortify yourself in a way that some people never ever have to do. So, for that, I’m grateful.”

“I would also say, you just keep yourself grounded, surrounded by people who care and love you, and stay close to what’s real. And, again, I’m just very adamant about this – it would not be in your heart if you weren’t meant to do it.”

“And I know it can be challenging to wait that wait but when it happens, it’s a full circle moment, and you know it was worth it.”

Asked to elaborate on what she said in her acceptance speech, “For so long I’ve always wanted to be different, and now I realize I just need to be myself,” Da’Vine explained, “I knew I was always different.”

“And so, therefore, I thought maybe I needed to conform to something else because when I looked at the (Oscars) show for many years as I was growing up, I didn’t necessarily see myself there.”

“Yet, that was the model of success. So I was on this journey of trying to figure out how I could mold myself to that because I thought that’s what success would mean.”

“And what I have begun to find in my journey is that in being myself, doing the work, staying focused, driven, and clear, I could do exactly the same thing while being myself.”

On the importance of paying it forward, the actress who began in musical theater, from West End to Broadway, answered, “It’s imperative because the people who’ve done it before me allowed me to be in this position now.”

“And so the type of work I do, my strive for authenticity, for quality allows there to be a new standard set where we can tell universal stories in Black and brown bodies, and it can be accepted and enjoyed among the masses.”

“It’s not just Black TV or Black movies or Black people but instead, a universal performance that can be enjoyed by all.”

About wearing her grandmother’s eyeglasses in The Holdovers (mentioned by Lupita Nyong’o who presented Da’Vine as a nominee in the show), where she plays a boarding school head cook, Da’Vine revealed, “It was crucial.”

“I knew that this was going to be a difficult role for me to take on and that it was going to require a lot of vulnerability from me. And I knew that she was just someone in my life who would allow me to get right back to the center.”

“And there were many women – I did a lot of research and did little subliminal messages, if you will, with hair-dos, details, and accessories beyond the glasses, giving homage to women from The Jeffersons, Phyllis Hyman, stuff like that.”

“So I included all of these women who made an impression on me and that meant a lot because it felt like a love letter back to Black women.”

Queried on how she encourages talents from underserved communities to stay the course, the Philadelphia native shared, “Due to being in underserved communities, the beautiful thing that erupts is your imagination and your creativity because you don’t have much.”

“And so you have this innate ability to create. That’s a gift and that’s something that will serve you. When you do have the resources, it’s easy.”

“Something I think what we as Black people are very good at is making a lot out of very little. I think that’s a superpower and something that we should applaud ourselves for and uplift ourselves so there’s nothing that’s never too little. It’s always just enough.”

Emma Thomas

Emma Thomas, who won best picture with her husband, Christopher Nolan (named best director) and Charles Roven, one of Oppenheimer’s seven honors, was hailed by best film editing winner Jennifer Lame as “a badass producer” making “complicated, beautiful films.”

Emma was asked about the importance of supporting women in the film industry. “I think everybody should be supporting women in the industry,” Emma emphasized. “I’m just saying.”

“We had the most incredible group of women working on this film. Eventually, I think we’ll get to the point where we have sort of 50/50 representation across the board.”

“We’re not quite there yet but we’re getting there. I think things are getting a lot better than they were. I’m very proud to have worked on a film that had so many fantastically talented women on it.”

“And really, the way that we do, bring more women in is to keep hiring and keep supporting. So, yeah, it’s an important thing.”

Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell
Clothing, Formal Wear, Suit
YOUNGEST WINNERS. Finneas O’Connell and Billie Eilish pose backstage with their Oscar for Original Song. AMPAS

“Don’t do it for other people,” replied Billie Eilish when asked what she would advise young people who are aspiring to have a career in music. With their What Was I Made For (from Greta Gerwig’s Barbie) winning best song, it made Billie, 22, and her brother Finneas, 26, the youngest and second youngest, respectively, to bag two Oscars.

The duo cinched their first original song Oscar in 2022 for No Time to Die, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Bond movie of the same name.

Bille continued, “Don’t do it for like numbers or some sort of specific like fame. That’s just really not ever something that I think anyone should be [doing it for].”

“Like, moving forward, I want everyone to be doing something that they feel passionate about, that they feel proud of, and that makes them feel like the best version of themselves. I would say that you got time.”

“I remember being 12 – believe it or not, and seeing this musical and sobbing my eyes out because I was like, damn, I’m a failure and I’m not going to have a career.”

“I was watching Matilda on Broadway and it was amazing, my God. And I was bawling in like the back nosebleeds and I said, I’m never going to amount to anything because I’m not in Matilda.”

Finneas quipped, “Over the hill.”

Billie added, “I would say, give yourself some time and do what you love. And I know that’s kind of easier said than done because some of us don’t even know what we love. But you will figure it out. You will find it.”

Cillian Murphy

Cillian Murphy disclosed that he was “a kid” (well, he was young – in his 20s) when he first met Christopher Nolan. After watching Cillian in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, Nolan screen-tested him to play the Caped Crusader in 2003. Cillian didn’t get the role but he landed the Dr. Jonathan Crane part instead in Batman Begins.

“It’s very, very special,” Cillian said about his collaborations with Christopher, culminating in playing the eponymous father of the atomic bomb in Oppenheimer. He made history as the first Irish-born actor to win the Academy’s best actor plum.

“We’ve been working together for 20 years. I think he is the perfect director. He is an extraordinary writer and producer.”

“He is extraordinary visually and an extraordinary director of actors. He presents this film like no one else does in the world.”

“And I just can’t believe my luck. I did a screen test for him when I was a kid and I thought that would be it. And it would be just enough to be in a room with Chris for a couple of hours and here we are. So I’m just so humbled and thankful.”

Emma Stone

When best actress winner Emma Stone strode in, she provided some levity when she answered about busting the back of her Louis Vuitton gown.

“Right when I came back, they sewed me back in, which was wonderful,” Emma explained with a smile. “I do think I busted it during his (Ryan Gosling’s) I’m Just Ken.

Clothing, Dress, Formal Wear
Michelle Yeoh presents the Oscar® for Actress in a Leading Role to Emma Stone during the live ABC telecast of the 96th Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 10, 2024.

“I was so amazed by Ryan and what he was doing and that number just blew my mind. I was right there and I just was going for it, and, you know, things happen.”

On playing Bella Baxter in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, one of the most original parts in recent cinema – an adult woman’s body grafted with an infant’s brain – Emma enthused, “She is a character that is so, so important to me. The chance to play a person starting from scratch.”

“But in a total metaphorical, can’t-really-happen-in-real-life way, who’s gaining language and skills at a rapid pace every day. And getting to, sort of, chart that course and realize that she was just full of joy, curiosity, and true love of not just the good but the challenges in life.”

“Bella was fascinated by all of it. That was an amazing lesson to take with me and to try to get to live in the shoes of every day. So I really miss playing her ever since we wrapped filming which was a long time ago.”

“It was like two and a half years ago. I miss Bella. And I’m really grateful that we got to celebrate the film tonight and over these past few months.”

With her triumph in the 96th Academy Awards, Emma joined a club of 26 other actresses who have won two or more acting Oscars for leading performances. Stone won best actress in 2019 for Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, where she appeared opposite Ryan.

Show highlights and sidelights

So what entertained the jaded journalists when there were no winners in the press room? Or even when we were throwing questions at the brand new Oscar winners, sometimes the show hosted by Jimmy Kimmel drew our attention.

Finneas O’Connell, when he was in the room with Bilie, got curious why the journos were chuckling at one point: “What’s happening during the show that you are all laughing at?”

For one, the bit about John Cena, naked save for a modesty garment, used by actors to cover their private parts in nude scenes, to um, commemorate the 50th anniversary of streaker Robert Opel’s surprise dash onstage at the 1974 Oscars, had the writers laughing.

And the reporters were just as captivated as the star-studded audience at the Dolby Theatre by Ryan’s showstopping I’m Just Ken number which featured, according to Variety, a 40-piece orchestra, 62 dancing Kens (including a very game Simu Liu, who was, of course, in Barbie), 24 huge Barbie heads, and a surprise appearance by Guns N’ Roses’ Slash.

Urban, Night Life, Club
STANDING OVATION. The crowd goes wild after Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” number. AMPAS

Ryan stole the show with this big production number of composer Mark Ronson’s nominated song which the actor conceived as his salute to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend scene in Howard Hawks’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Bringing back a format, last featured in the 2009 Oscars, when past winners in acting categories introduced the year’s nominees, was a welcome idea.

Also a scene stealer was Messi, the border collie in the best picture nominee, Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, dapper in a bow tie. Messi applauding during the show went viral.

It turned out to be yet another example of Hollywood’s tradition of illusion and make-believe. Almost an hour before the show, Messi’s cameo was filmed, with a man crouched under the seat, holding up fake paws and doing the clapping motion.

Messi’s star turn on Oscars night didn’t end there. After the ceremony credits rolled, the seven-year-old dog was shown peeing on Matt Damon’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was a hilarious riff on host Jimmy’s faux feud with Matt.

It was also interesting to learn that in his rehearsal, best director presenter Steven Spielberg didn’t want to mention Christopher Nolan as the pretend winner because the legendary filmmaker didn’t want to jinx his friend’s chances of winning.

“It’s bad luck!” Steven reportedly exclaimed and went on to announce a late director’s name as the pretend winner instead.

By coincidence, Filipino American Vanessa Hudgens, who returned as the Oscars pre-show host, and her co-host Julian Hough, are both pregnant.

Fashion, Premiere, Red Carpet
BABY BUMP. A pregnant Vanessa Hudgens arrives on the red carpet of the 96th Oscars. AMPAS

Other Fil-Ams who graced this year’s Oscars include actors Hailee Steinfeld, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Tia Carrere, Matthew Libatique, on his third best cinematography nomination for Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, and filmmaker PJ Raval. Matty wore a black brocade tuxedo by Beverly Hills-based Filipino designer, Oliver Tolentino.

Clothing, Formal Wear, Suit
PINOYS AT THE OSCARS. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique and filmmaker PJ Raval looking dapper. Contributed photo

But the red carpet scene stealers were the monster claw-heels on the shoes of the Godzilla Minus One crew. As if that wasn’t eye-catching enough, Masaki Takahashi, Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, and Tatsuji Nojima also showed off more striking accessories – Godzilla figurines in gold and black.

This crew went on to win the best visual effects award. Talk about scary fun good luck charms! – Rappler.com

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Ruben V. Nepales

Based in Los Angeles, Ruben V. Nepales is an award-winning journalist whose honors include prizes from the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards, a US-wide competition, and the Southern California Journalism Awards, presented by the Los Angeles Press Club.