Behind the curtains
March 08 2018 10:44 PM
CHITCHAT: Best Actress Frances McDormand, left, enjoys a laugh with past Oscar winners Jodie Foster, centre, and Jennifer Lawrence backstage.

By Amy Kaufman

Backstage at the Oscars ceremony Sunday, everyone has to wait in line for the bathroom. And there aren’t too many of them: Just two, unisex, and they’re shared by both stars and production staffers.
With 20 minutes to go before showtime, a line had already formed, including Christopher Walken and Frances McDormand in the queue. After a few moments, Eva Marie Saint emerged from one of the stalls, horrified to see how many people were waiting in line. “Oh, I’m sorry! I was fixing my hair. Forgive me,” the 93-year-old apologised to the small group.
That’s just one of the moments we caught from our spot backstage at the Oscars.
4:50pm With 10 minutes to go before showtime, Jimmy Kimmel emerged from his dressing room, where dozens of staffers outfitted in black awaited him. One launched into a spontaneous chant: “Best show ever. Best show ever.” It rang through the halls and continued as Kimmel walked toward the stage. Also following behind him? Kelly Ripa and Helen Mirren, who emerged from the elevator leading to the backstage area just as the chant was in full swing. “Dame Helen Mirren is here. Let’s have a little respect,” Ripa kidded. The talk show host had a prime spot backstage, interviewing celebs after the winners. She was conducting interviews for her talk show without her co-host, Ryan Seacrest.
5:10pm During Kimmel’s monologue, dozens of production staffers and trophy presenters crowded around a monitor to watch the host. Viola Davis, ready to head out to present the supporting actor Oscar, stood closest to the screen — and laughed for a solid 30 seconds at Kimmel’s gag about agents being untrustworthy. Meanwhile, more than 50 polished Oscar statuettes stood resting in a trophy case just offstage. They were to be touched only by a white gloved guard, who sat directly next to the statues. Mirren, exiting the stage after her stunt involving a jet-powered ski, was excited to see all the glittering statues. “Hi,” she waved to them, as if they were old friends. She only looked, but did not touch.
5:24pm The first person Sam Rockwell saw when he walked offstage after winning supporting actor was his publicist, Liz Mahoney, who engulfed him in a huge hug. When the actor noticed all the cameras, he was stunned. “Go get your … picture taken,” Mahoney advised. Rockwell posed for a moment before spotting producer Jen Todd, one of his old friends. “That was great, right?” he asked. “I went long, but that’s fine?” “That’s fine,” she assured him.
5:37pm Greta Gerwig was having her makeup touched up — “I did you on No Strings Attached,” the makeup artist reminded the actress — when Laura Dern arrived backstage. The two were presenting documentary feature together, and Gerwig was jittery with excitement. “I can’t breathe in,” she said with a smile. “I know,” Dern said. “I wish I didn’t wear eyeglasses.” “When we walk out, should we hold hands?” Dern asked Gerwig. “I think arm-in-arm is awkward.” 
She noticed a clutch of reporters observing the actresses’ conversation and asked for advice. “Holding hands? That’s cute, right?” “We crowdsourced it!” Gerwig said. Just as they made their decision, an accountant from PricewaterhouseCoopers handed Dern the envelope. “Can you confirm that this is for documentary feature?” the accountant asked the actress. Because we aren’t playing around with those envelopes this year, y’all.
5:48pm Backstage, most of the action happened right off stage right, where the monitors were housed, the trophies were held and the presenters got touched up. This was a crowded space, and it was closed off by a door from a main hallway where there was a lot less action. So when things got too crowded in the wings — right after the fourth award — a production staffer insisted the press exit the area and stay in the less-happening hallway.
6:30pm Ripa is the only broadcast journalist backstage, and she’s set up with a display to entice talent: Cupcakes and vodka shots. Gina Rodriguez, who had been hanging in the green room with her boyfriend, emerged to do a shot with the talk show host. “Mmm,” she said after downing it in front of the cameras. “Feels right.”
7:05pm Tiffany Haddish walked backstage clutching a glass of white wine. “Hold that for me,” she said, looking at me as she put it down on the table. “I’m coming back for that, OK?” The actress was radiating with excitement before presenting with Maya Rudolph, spontaneously erupting into song. “I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it.” “No, no, no!” Rudolph chimed in, making it a duet. Both actresses were walking onstage without their heels for a bit — and Haddish advised the production crew not to zoom in on her feet. “Then the foot fetish people be like, ‘She got a bunion! I’m all into that corn.’ ”
7:19pm Haddish came back to retrieve her wine, as promised. “You didn’t let anybody Bill Cosby it, did you? Good, good, good!”
7:26pm Tarana Burke, who launched the #MeToo movement, came offstage in a flood of tears after being a part of the Stand Up for Something musical performance. She spotted Annabella Sciorra, who was in the midst of a tight huddle with fellow presenters Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek. Sciorra broke the handshake to embrace Burke as they both got emotional. “I love you so much. So much,” Sciorra said. “I’m so glad you’re here,” Burke replied.
7:36pm The crowd in the backstage wings erupted when Jordan Peele won his screenwriting award, but it was Greatest Showman star Keala Settle who was most excited for him. “Yes. Yesssss. Y-y-y-es,” she shouted as he was making his acceptance speech. As he exited the stage, she pumped her fist in his direction. “Bro. BROOOO.”
7:55pm “Yes, (profanity)!!!!!!” Settle shouted after emerging from her performance. After taking a few moments to catch her breath, she looked at a stagehand. “Um, can I go?” On her way out, production staffers kept stopping her to congratulate her on her performance. “Man, you guys are nice.”
8:30pm Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were waiting in the wings before their encore presentation of best picture, and Dunaway seemed nervous. She noticed a camera snapping photos in her direction and became distressed. Even though the photographer said he was not taking her pictures, she shooed him away. “I don’t want anyone near me. What can we do about all these cameras?”
While pacing and reading her lines over and over, she paused to watch the lead actress reel, and exclaimed excitedly when Laurie Metcalf popped up on-screen in the Lady Bird clip. “I love her. She was amazing in A Doll’s House, Part 2. ”
Beatty sipped a Diet Coke and seemed more relaxed. “What’s in that? Is that really Coke?” He laughed a bit and stood to get touched up. “Don’t go crazy here. I don’t want a lot,” he advised the makeup artist.
8:47pm The accountant was watching the monitor closely as The Shape of Water was announced, shaking her head in the affirmative. “Awesome, awesome show,” the stage manager said, embracing her as she let out a huge sigh of relief.
8:53pm After the show wrapped, the Shape of Water crew revelled under the glittering set. Sally Hawkins, wiping tears out of her eyes, looked down at her dress and realised that she had left a pool of sequins to her right. “I’m shedding scales,” she said with a laugh.
9:03pm “That was a nice touch, having Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty come back. That was hilarious,” Shape of Water co-star Doug Jones said, standing in a circle with castmates Michael Stuhlbarg and Richard Jenkins.
9:04pm Dunaway and Beatty, meanwhile, were revelling in the fact that they’d had no envelope mishap this year. “Great job, thank you,” the accountant who’d handed them their envelope said. “Really, thank you very much. We appreciate it.” — Los Angeles Times/TNS

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