Relive the best moments in the history of Academy Award speeches
There’s more to winning an Academy Award than starring in a movie. Not looking an idiot when you collect that legendary trophy is just as important. Here are ten celebrities who accepted Hollywood’s biggest accolades with style.
On Sunday March 2, every actor on the Academy’s shortlist will be praying they’re a winner. For the lucky ones, making an acceptance speech is as career defining as the roles that win the award. So to those Oscar nominees waiting with baited breath, learn from these winners past and give us a speech worth staying up for.
Enjoy it It worked for... Julia Roberts, Best Actress, Erin Brockovich, 2001 The worst acceptance speeches try too hard, so plus points go to Roberts, who doesn’t go in for gushy and cloying. She tells the conductor to sit down so he can’t cut her off with the orchestra: ‘I may never get the chance to be here again.’ Standing there, hand on hip, she’s having the time of her life.
Be witty It worked for... Emma Thompson, Best Adapted Screenplay, Sense and Sensibility, 1996 Thompson is just so English about it all. When her name is called out, there’s no ‘pretend to be surprised’ look. Emma simply gives her mum a quick, stiff-upper-lip arm squeeze. Her speech pokes fun at the silliness of it all. ‘Before I came, I went to visit Jane Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral to pay respects, and tell her about the grosses. I don’t know how she would react to an evening like this, but I do hope she knows how big she is in Uruguay.’
Speak from the heart It worked for... Russell Crowe, Best Actor, Gladiator, 2001 After dedicating his award to his late grandfather and uncle, Crowe talks endearingly about having the ‘vaguely ludicrous’ dream of becoming an actor. He adds: ‘For anybody on the downside of advantage and relying purely on courage, it’s possible.’ You’d have to be an Oscar-winning actor to fake that level of sincerity.
Keep it short It worked for... Joe Pesci, Best Supporting Actor, Goodfellas, 1991 Oscar winners: no one cares about your inspirational drama teacher or your publicist. Think about your poor celebrity friends, trapped in their seats, forced to listen to other people. So props to Joe Pesci for the less-is-more approach. With a disbelieving shake of the head, he bashfully pipes up: ‘It’s my privilege, thank you.’ Eight seconds. Five words. Done.
Love everyone It worked for... Cuba Gooding Jr., Best Supporting Actor, Jerry Maguire, 1997 Like a hyperactive kid, Cuba Gooding Jr. couldn’t contain himself. First he thanks his wife. Then pretty much everyone else: ‘The studio, I love you… Cameron Crowe… Tom Cruise, I love you brother.’ By the end, he’s fist-pumping with two hands. Over the top? Maybe. From the heart? Definitely.
Bring granny as a date It worked for... Isaac Hayes, Best Original Song, Shaft, 1972 Isaac Hayes coolly picked up his Oscar wearing sunglasses. After briefly thanking the usual suspects, he announced that his award was dedicated to ‘a lady who is here with me tonight…’ Turns out Isaac is talking about his grandma.
Be The Dude It worked for... Jeff Bridges, Best Actor, Crazy Heart, 2010 Bridges didn’t win his Oscar for playing The Dude in The Big Lebowski, but he accepted his Oscar like he had. Taking his time to get his dedications out, gazing up to the heavens as he says: ‘Mum and Dad, look! Ha ha.’ It takes the conductor starting up the orchestra to nudge him off stage.
Be an old guy with style It worked for... Jack Palance, Best Supporting Actor, City Slickers, 1992 First comes a friendly putdown aimed at his diminutive City Slickers co-star Billy Crystal. And then if anyone was in any doubt what a macho guy in his seventies is capable of, Palance drops to the floor for a few one-armed push-ups.
Trip up It worked for... Jennifer Lawrence, Best Actress, Silver Linings Playbook, 2013 Taking a tumble should be the worst thing to happen to an actress – but not Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence. Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman rush to her assistance, and Hollywood gives her a standing ovation to cheer her back to her feet. At the post-Oscars press conference, when asked what went through her mind as she fell, she said: ‘A bad word that I can’t say.’
Be dignified It worked for... Hattie McDaniel, Best Supporting Actress, Gone with the Wind, 1940 McDaniel became the first black American to win an Oscar for her performance as Mammy in the classic American movie Gone with the Wind, starring Clark Gable. Wearing flowers in her hair, voice quivering, her speech is dignity epitomised. ‘I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and the motion picture industry,’ she says humbly. ‘My heart is just too full to tell you just how I feel.’ Tune into Dubai One for live coverage of the Oscars. Monday March 3, 2am. Coverage is also repeated at 7.30pm.