Oscar night is all glitz, gowns and gongs, right? Well, kinda. But there’s a darker side to it all. The traffic jams stretching to the horizon, nerves so taut you could play the Deerhunter theme on them, the endless “thank-you’s” to lawyers/accountants/agents/mother-in-laws, the numberless incredible parties, the glory, the golden statuettes. Okay, maybe it’s not so bad. But what’s it really like at the Kodak Theater? Like Dorothy in Oz, Empire peeked behind the velvet curtain to find out what it feels like to experience Hollywood’s night of nights first hand. Here’s what seven Oscar veterans had to tell us...
Since joining Aardman Animations in 1985, Nick Park has won four Academy Awards and been nominated for a further two. His first win, a Best Animated Short Oscar for Creature Comforts in 1991, was followed by wins in the category for Wallace & Gromit In The Wrong Trousers (1994) and Wallace & Gromit In A Close Shave (1996). He also collected an Oscar for Best Animated Feature with Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit in 2006.
The first time I went to the Oscars, I beat myself! I came from nowhere, really, and suddenly had two films nominated in the same year. I had A Grand Day Out and Creature Comforts. There was only three in the category then. I was up against one of my college heroes, Bruno Bozzetto, who is an Italian animator. So I was very, very nervous. I was about 30, and I’d never been to LA before. I was showing the films in a short film festival out there and the people running that took me to the Oscars. They went against the grain and rented an open-top T-Bird, a very ‘50s car, and we turned up at the Oscars and everyone was going, 'Oh, that’s so cool to not have a black limo!' That’s when I had the big green bow tie on. I didn’t have a bow tie with me, I was going to buy one, and in the end I didn’t have time so I thought, this is animation so I can do something slightly cartoony. I didn’t realize how big it looked, actually. I didn’t realize it would get so much attention. It was in one paper in America being called a travesty of taste. I’ve never had anyone comment on what I wear before. But it became my trademark.
I remember being so nervous at that one. Suddenly you’re in a strange bubble where Dustin Hoffman walks past, or Sophia Loren, all these massive names you’d only ever heard of. I was thinking all the time, what am I doing here? I’d just made two plasticine films.
When they read out your name, you’re out of your own body, really. It’s so nerve-racking. At that moment, if you don’t win, that’s fine, because you don’t have to go up there. It’s afterwards, when you think, 'Oh well, ok'. The first time, I was so nervous that I couldn’t even feel my legs carrying me up there. You somehow automatically go up. You’re nervous in case you’re in such a delirium that you think you’ve heard your name when you haven’t really. All sorts of things go through your head. I wrote down a thank you list on one side of the ticket for Creature Comforts and for A Grand Day Out on the other side. I was scared I might flip it over to the wrong side! But somehow it comes to you to say the right thing. You’re too nervous to read anything, anyway.
Over the years, I’ve slowly started to relax a bit more. The fourth time I went there, that we won, was for Curse Of The Were-Rabbit in the feature film category. That puts you on a different level of acceptance. I didn’t feel higher, but everyone else had come down. You go to the nominees’ ball afterwards and you feel that if you have an Oscar in your hand, you can chat to anyone. I remember Tom Hanks coming up to me and saying, 'great speech' for the second time I won. I was leaning across and chatting to J-Lo and Spielberg and George Clooney came up to me and shook my hand. I felt that we were all the same, we were all just artists, trying to do what we do.