Oscars 2007

Lost in Translation

Tales from the Oscar backstage press room include Helen Mirren speaking French, Martin Scorsese getting phantom deja vu, Al Gore clarifying his Presidential plans again (he's not running); sound guys mixing it up; and more

OOH LA LA Mirren picked up her Oscar — and then a vodka gimlet — on her way to the backstage Oscar press room, where…
Image credit: Lester Cohen/WireImage.com
OOH LA LA Mirren picked up her Oscar — and then a vodka gimlet — on her way to the backstage Oscar press room, where she was ready for the French press corps

Spanish. German. Italian. French. Oh my! Where was Clint Eastwood when all the Oscar reporters needed him? Sure, the star kindly translated when Honorary Oscar recipient Ennio Morricone gave his acceptance speech in Italian. But Eastwood's services probably could have been put to better use behind the scenes, where the mix of foreign languages spoken made the backstage press room at the 79th Academy Awards resemble a Babel cast reunion.

Indeed, the most diverse Oscars ever yielded one of the most international groups of winners — and much of the backstage banter was (Oscars flashback!) truly lost in translation. Heck, even Al Gore got into the act when he accompanied his Inconvenient Truth cohorts onto the Q&A dais. The former future president spoke, at various intervals, in English, Italian, and French. But he didn't need any help from Clint when he delivered one of the best one-liners of the night, in response to a query about his new status as an international rock star of sorts: ''William Hung was a rock star; I just have a slideshow.'' Haha! Here are some more gems seen and heard backstage at the Oscars.

Oh, So This Is How It's Gonna Be!
When the evening's first winners — Pan's Labyrinth art direction champs, Eugenio Caballero and Pilar Revuelta — came backstage, all but one of the questions that the press corps asked them were en Español. Don't believe us? Well, believe this: The Academy proudly reported that they hired some of the country's best court reporters to transcribe the press room Q&As; here's a verbatim snippet of how those typing speed demons first put their skills to the test...

Q. Eugenio — (Spanish)?
A. (Spanish).
Q. Eugenio?
A. Spanish.
Q. I don't know if you speak English.
A. Yes.

...and then...


Q. (Spanish)?
A. (Spanish).
Q. (Spanish)?
A. Art directors guild — (Spanish).
Q. (Spanish)?
A. (Spanish).

...yup! Needless to say, virtually every other Q&A went like that.

Dame's Little Helper
The Queen 's Helen Mirren met the press carrying a Best Actress Oscar in one hand...and a vodka gimlet in the other. No wonder she seemed so at ease answering a question in perfect French.

Ouch... OUCH!
Boy, Dreamgirls ' sound mixing winners weren't too sympathetic to their Apocalypto rival, 19-time loser (and pet cause of EW.com columnist Dalton Ross) Kevin O'Connell. One called him the Oscars' Susan Lucci. (Oof!) Another offered the backstage crowd this little nugget: ''I just wonder what Kevin's trying to do out there by trying to get an award by using sympathy. Kevin's an okay mixer but enough's enough about Kevin.... I just think that he should take up another line of work.'' (Whoa!) Oh, yeah, we heard you loud and clear, Mr. Sound Guy!

Short and Sweet
Colorful Aussie director George Miller on working with so many youngsters on Happy Feet : ''I'm an old fart.'' Certainly, by the end of the three-hour-51-minute-and-48-second broadcast, he wasn't the only one who felt that way. Amen, old bloke, amen.

Solidarity Under Fire
Former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing got the night's top prize for navigating the press minefield, brushing off queries about her longtime friend (and Humanitarian Award presenter) Tom Cruise, by speaking of her unyielding respect for him: ''I don't think Tom Cruise needs any career tips. I think Tom Cruise is one of the singularly most talented actors I have worked with in my entire life, and one of the singularly best producers I have ever worked with in my entire life.'' Well, okay! But what's her take on Ritalin?

Please. S'il Vous Plait. Por Favor. Per Favore. Please.
Hands shot up all over for Al Gore when he came backstage. What did the international press want to know? Maybe something about how it was to star in an Oscar-winning film? Or how they can help stop global warming? Or how can they fix the wipers on their Priuses? Um, no. Two questioners addressed him as ''Mr. President,'' and it continued from there, with journalists imploring him to take on Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. For the record, Gore said: ''I do not have plans to become a candidate for office again.'' Pretty clear in any language.

Aw, How Sweet!
Still, the winner of 2000's presidential popular vote was at the center of the evening's most darling backstage moment. Just as Gore and Co. were walking off the Q&A dais, Melissa Etheridge won for her Inconvenient Truth song ''I Need to Wake Up.'' Gore and Co. cheered and jumped up and down and then rushed over to watch her acceptance speech on the press room monitors. The film's director, Davis Guggenheim, stood with his arm around Gore's shoulder and patted him on the back when Melissa gave the former veep a shout-out.

There's No Elephant In This Room
And speaking of Etheridge, several questions for the Original Song winner focused on her sexual orientation. (Way to be classy, fellow members of the press!) But the rocker just took it all in stride, calling the Oscars ''a gay holiday'' — and later, holding up her statuette, saying, ''This is the only naked man that will ever be in my bedroom!''

Let's Not Get Ahead Of Ourselves Now
Ah, Marty Scorsese, that wacky mile-a-minute talker, always prone to getting a little carried away! The first-time Oscar winner triumphantly marched backstage to loud applause from the press corps. ''It's always great to be standing here,'' said the director, all swept up in the moment, before correcting himself. ''What am I saying? It's my first time standing here!''

Paging Sacheen Littlefeather!
Alan Arkin portrayed a cranky grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine and he was a cranky Best Supporting Actor winner backstage, saying flat out, ''I don't believe in competitions between artists. I think this is insane.... I don't keep score.'' And then he followed it up with a quip about his age, saying, ''everybody thinks I'm gonna keel over.'' Oh, but then who would remind us that none of this actually matters?!

Originally posted Feb 26, 2007