The King’s Speech took a final turn at the podium Sunday night, collecting the best-picture Oscar and highlighting an unlikely run that saw the small British drama become a box-office sensation and divide critics from fans and filmmakers.
Speech, about the stuttering struggles of King George VI, also took Academy Awards for director Tom Hooper and Colin Firth as best actor in the leading role. “I have a feeling my career’s just peaked,” said Firth, who threatened to dance onstage after winning.
Hooper, meanwhile, thanked dumb luck for his statuette at the 83rd annual awards.
“My mum was invited to a fringe theater play reading of an unproduced, unrehearsed play called The King’s Speech,” Hooper recalled. “She almost didn’t. But thank God she did, because she came home, rang me up and said, ‘Tom, I think I found your next film.’ Listen to your mum.”
Firth said later that he has been struck by the emotional response to Speech. “Speech therapists, and people with difficulty with their speech, have responded, and it’s powerful to be on the other end of that,” he said. “Particularly since what we do is often called frivolous. Though I think frivolity has its place. This movie doesn’t send a message, but maybe it shines a light.”
Surely he’s invited to the royal wedding now?
“As I understand it, the invitations have already gone out, so maybe mine’s been lost in the post,” Firth joked.
Natalie Portman, pregnant and escorted by fiancé Benjamin Millepied to the stage, won best actress for her role as an obsessed ballerina in Black Swan.
After the show, Portman said, “It feels very dream-like right now. I don’t really know where I am, I suppose.”
The actress quickly came back to reality when a reporter asked if she would name her child Oscar. “I think that’s definitely out of the question.”
The night went much as expected as favorites and old hands claimed Oscars despite a clear attempt to lure younger viewers. Anne Hathaway complimented co-host James Franco for being so attractive demographically.
Films took the spotlight Sunday, though, as the academy spread its honors around.
The Fighter scored early rounds, including Christian Bale and Melissa Leo for best supporting actor and actress.
“Mine?” said a shocked Leo, who added an epithet that had to be bleeped from the broadcast. “For me? I’m shaking in my boots here.”
Bale, too, was ebullient.
“What the hell am I doing here next to you?” Bale asked his fellow nominees. “I’m not going to drop the F-bomb like (Leo) did. I’ve done that plenty before.”
As expected, Toy Story 3 took the Oscar for best animated feature, while Inception‘s Wally Pfister won for best cinematography.
For director Lee Unkrich, the win for Toy Story 3 came as the biggest of reliefs.
“There absolutely was pressure making this movie,” he said. “When (Disney and Pixar chief) John (Lasseter) asked me to direct this movie, I was flattered, and then I wanted to go throw up. I could be the guy who screwed up the Toy Story movies. So, yeah, I call it fear-based filmmaking. We were driven to make sure we didn’t mess it up.”
Pfister said there was no secret to why he was nominated for working on a Christopher Nolan film. “He’s a brilliant filmmaker, and he has incredible vision,” Pfister said. “When Chris wrote the screenplay, I knew I could relate to a lot of what he was talking about in the dream world. It was very inspiring.”
‘Speech’ vs. ‘Social’ The King’s Speech and The Social Network arrived as the front-runners for best picture. Speech has swept the industry guild awards, generally an accurate forecast of the Oscar winner, while Social has been the toast of critics groups. Both claimed early awards.
Aaron Sorkin won for best adapted screenplay for The Social Network. “This movie is going to be a source of pride of mine for the rest of my life,” he said.
Sorkin gave credit to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the character at the center of Social. “I think he’s been an awfully good sport about this. I don’t think anyone would ever want a movie made about something they did when they were 19 years old.”
David Seidler, 73, countered by winning best original screenplay for The King’s Speech. “My father always said I would be a late bloomer,” said Seidler, the oldest winner of that award.
Seidler felt that patience was part of the recipe for the night’s success. He had long ago agreed to honor the late Queen Mother’s wish to not write The King’s Speech during her lifetime.
He said the timing of the movie’s success can’t hurt the spotlight that will soon be on the descendents of Bertie, aka King George VI.
“Well, I don’t think the royal family needs me to put them on the map. They’ve done that well over countless centuries,” he said. “But yes, there is synchronicity here. I’m not actually a monarchist. I guess there goes my knighthood. But I’m not an anti-monarchist — I’m a pragmatist.”
Sorkin said he and Seidler developed a “romance” during award season. “I think his screenplay for TheKing’s Speech is remarkable. I couldn’t be a bigger fan.”
For four months, Speech claimed headlines as a David to Social‘s Goliath. Early in the award season, Social claimed high-profile awards including the Golden Globe and the Critics’ Choice awards. But both are honors from journalists.
Speech, meanwhile, steamrolled through guild awards, including top prizes from the producers and directors guilds.
And the academy “liked The King’s Speech the moment they saw it,” says David Poland of MovieCityNews.com, which followed the race for months. “The Social Network was never that movie for them.”
Also, Poland said, “The Social Network, in the end, was about (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerberg being a jerk. The academy tends not to like jerk movies. The King’s Speech had the right tone. In the end, the academy does what it always does. It picks the movie it likes at that moment.”
Reznor said later that his film work isn’t as far as one would think from his work for Nine Inch Nails. “There was a side of Nine Inch Nails that was going instrumental, that was going sound-trackish,” Reznor said.
He said he hopes the win influences musicians who might not have felt that film scoring was open to them. “I think there is a general sense of conservatism in score these days. Maybe it can branch out into a richer, wider palette of sound. It may encourage a number of artists that there’s a possibility to work in film and make something interesting and different.”
But Randy Newman, who won best original song for We Belong Togetherfrom Toy Story 3, added a cautionary note backstage.
It’s tough making a living as a songwriter: “Who would want to break into this line of work — it’s like a bank that’s been robbed,” he joked.
“But no, my advice (is) keep doing it if you love it. Julliard graduates, 50% or more don’t go into music. It’s a really tough living to make. But if you love it, do it, and see what happens.”
Better than the Razzies Before the telecast, even competing stars were conciliatory.
Bale said on the red carpet: “When you get the right role, you want to be obsessive, you want to immerse yourself as much as you can. People deserve it. People are paying money for it. You need to bust your (butt) to really make sure you give them something worth paying their money for.”
Sandra Bullock, last year’s best-actress Oscar winner for her role in The Blind Side, offered simple advice for nominees.
“Many of them have been through it before, and they know to enjoy it and not take it too seriously,” she said.
For first-time nominees, “you want to say, ‘Relax. It doesn’t matter, you’ve made good friends along the way. Just remember it.’ ”
Mark Wahlberg might not have been nominated for playing the title role in The Fighter, but as producer he was thrilled with the film’s awards.
The film was one he fought hard to have made. “There were times that I thought, maybe I’m wrong. Everyone keeps walking away from this film. It could have been that we would have been at the Razzies instead of here. The Razzies are cool — it’s good to be recognized wherever you are. I’m thrilled to be here. We’re fortunate and humbled.”
On having a boxing ring built in his backyard, Wahlberg said backstage: “I was just in there this morning. And my two boys were in there, but don’t let Mommy know, they’re not supposed to be boxing. Anyone who wants to come over and get in the boxing ring, come on over.”
‘Nomination is already a win’ One winner had a message. Charles Ferguson, who won best documentary for Inside Job, about the 2008 global financial meltdown, said, “Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.”
Actors who didn’t win were philosophical nonetheless.
Javier Bardem, a best-actor nominee for Biutiful — which was also nominated for best foreign-language film — said: “The nomination is already a win, just because it’s a Spanish-speaking film. I think it means a lot to Spanish-speaking people, too.”
Best-actress nominee for Rabbit Hole Nicole Kidman attended with husband, country star Keith Urban. Why are they always together at awards shows? “Life is too short to be apart when you’ve found the one,” Urban said.
Kidman said they share their awards nights. “When we’re at the Grammys, he says, ‘This is our Grammy.’ I never thought I’d win a Grammy!” she said. “And when we come here to the Oscars, I always say that it’s our night together
Winners at the 83rd annual Academy Awards:
Best picture: The King’s Speech
Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Supporting actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Supporting actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Director: Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
Adapted screenplay: Aaron Sorkin,The Social Network
Original screenplay: David Seidler, The King’s Speech
Animated feature film: Toy Story 3
Original score: Trent Reznor, The Social Network
Documentary feature: Inside Job
Art direction: Alice in Wonderland
Animated short film: The Lost Thing
Foreign language film: In a Better World (Denmark)
Sound mixing: Inception
Sound editing: Inception
Makeup: The Wolfman
Costume design: Alice in Wonderland
Documentary short subject: Strangers No More
Live action short film: God of Love
Visual effects: Inception
Film editing: The Social Network