The Big Night

Burning Questions

The Oscar mysteries that have us all fired up

We may never know why Salma Hayek was the only Best Actress nominee not included in Steve Martin's ''they've slept with me'' joke (did Edward Norton threaten to punch him out?), but here are the answers to some other Oscar head-scratchers. -- Missy Schwartz

During his opening monologue, Martin cracked a joke about Mickey Rooney, who then heckled back. What did Rooney say?

''My wife had a joke, and I thought [Steve would] follow up,'' explains the Oscar veteran, who's been married eight times. ''He'd say, 'Mickey, what are you doing?' And I'd say, 'I'm looking for my wife.' I'd hoped that he would say, 'Which one?' But we didn't get a chance to rehearse it.''

When Pedro Almodovar won for Best Original Screenplay, a voice-over announced that this was his first Oscar, but his All About My Mother won Best Foreign Language Film in 2000. Any other goofs?

Of course! Another voice-over introduced presenter Harrison Ford as the ''star of...Indiana Jones.'' And the ''In Memoriam'' montage identified the late director John Frankenheimer as John Frankeheimer.

Best Actress winner Nicole Kidman was still talking when the camera pulled away and the orchestra began. What'd we miss?

''She was thanking her acting coach, Susan Batson,'' says Kidman's rep. ''And she was quite stressed that no one heard her.''

Why did Twin Towers director Robert David Port thank Maury Povich when accepting for Best Documentary Short?

The project was overseen by Wolf Films (as in Law & Order's Dick Wolf) and Povich's MoPo Entertainment -- in fact, it began production pre-9/11 as a TV pilot about a special police unit.

We know Peter O'Toole was a wild guy and all, but did he really get Frank Pierson fired from a movie, as the Academy president alleged?

''We assume it's true,'' says the actor's rep. ''Though neither Peter nor I can remember which project.'' Pierson says O'Toole had him sacked from 1968's Great Catherine.

Colin Farrell refrained from swearing in English while introducing Best Original Song nominees U2 -- but what was he saying in Gaelic?

He was simply showing deference to his fellow Irishmen: ''Go raibh mile maith agat. Agus anois...U2.'' Or, ''A thousand thanks to you. And now...U2.''

And didn't Bono change a few lines of ''The Hands That Built America''?

Aye. The original ''It's early fall/There's a cloud on the New York skyline/Innocence dragged across a yellow line'' became the more topical ''Late in the spring/Yellow cloud on a desert skyline/Some father's son/Is it his, or is it mine?''

Eminem was a no-show, so ''Lose Yourself'' wasn't performed. Has a winning song ever not been played live before?

Not in the 50 years the Oscars have been televised.

Was the ceremony broadcast to the troops, as Steve Martin claimed?

Sir, yes, sir! The American Forces Radio and Television Service transmitted it to the 179 countries and territories where U.S. troops are stationed, and to more than 100 Navy ships. ''Not all the deployed troops are watching TV,'' says the AFRTS's Larry Sichter. ''They're busy doing other things.''

(Additional reporting by Gillian Flynn and Allyssa Lee)

Originally posted Apr 04, 2003 Published in issue #703 Apr 04, 2003 Order article reprints
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