It’s difficult when everyone tells you that they know you’ve won. They don’t know you’ve won. In many cases, they don’t even think you’ve won, but it is an act of loyalty to make these declarations. Part of you aches to believe them, but the main part is fully aware that they are only saying ”We are your friends,” which, while agreeable, is not at all the same thing.
We decided to make a day of it. My wife, Emma, and I would rise late, lunch early, and concentrate entirely on preparing for the march down the red carpet. Emma had decided not to avail herself of the offers to borrow outfits but instead to commission a couture dress from designer Tomasz Starzewski. He rose unhesitatingly to the task, and with a flurry of sketches, calico models, fittings, and presumably all-night work on the part of his atelier, he had come up with a stunning creation. The family diamonds had been assembled (making Emma, I am fairly sure, the only woman there who owned her own frock and jewels), and the coiffeur, Richard Dalton, arrived at noon. The truth is the Oscar ceremony, like a wedding, is about the women. My own role was that of lady’s maid, arranging hems, fastening necklaces, and checking how the hair looked from the back, which I suppose, given I’m the writer of Gosford Park, seems only fitting.
At last we were ready, our talismans were with us (in my case a tiny, lumpy felt bear my son made for me when he was 4), the car was downstairs, and we were on our way. Not before, however, being photographed for an English newspaper on the red carpet of the Four Seasons Hotel as well as by sundry tourists – one of whom thanked me with a handshake of such terrifying stickiness that I was wiping the goo off my palm until about halfway through the show.
I knew I had not won. Not just because Emma kept saying to me, ”It’s a triumph just to be here.” Nor because the London papers had predicted that it would be Memento or The Royal Tenenbaums or Amelie (although I did think it a bit hard that not one of the English publications had wished me well). I just didn’t believe it could happen to me.
It was odd enough to see my script on the screen and to hear the words I had typed in another life crouched over my laptop in Scotland, but when Gwyneth Paltrow read out my name, I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach. It is impossible to describe the feeling, literally an electric shock, that passes through one. I kissed Emma and shook Bob Altman’s hand but all with the blurred vision of the half-awake; then, a moment later, I was on the stage staring at thousands and talking to millions. Mercifully, words came (reviewing it in the privacy of our room, I felt I’d said what I wanted, especially about America’s generosity) and I was led upstairs by Miss Paltrow (charming throughout) into that strange, almost mad camera battery that the famous have to learn to live with.
The rest of the evening whirled by in an adrenaline-fed rush. There is a custom in Hollywood that the Oscar Winner, for the rest of that evening, must carry it. This has two results; the first is that your arm is about a foot longer by the time you get to bed, and the second is that you are admitted everywhere. In rapid succession, we flew through the various parties…. Elton John was particularly welcoming in his ”VIP” hidey-hole (Oscar took us) where I found Halle Berry, my neighbour at the nominees’ luncheon. Then, she knew Sissy Spacek had won in her category, and I knew Memento had won in mine, so when we clapped eyes on each other, each with our golden man, we shook the roof with screams of delight.