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Empire & Sky Movies present coverage of the Academy Awards
The Secrets Of Oscar Night
Winners and nominees share their Oscar night experiences

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THE ACTRESS - SOPHIE OKONEDO

The London-born actress was a Best Supporting Actress nominee in 2005 for her performance as Hotel Rwanda's Tatiana Rusesabagina.

My most vivid memory was the nomination. Normally you get nominated for other awards and that hadn’t really happened to me, so it was quite a shock. I wasn’t standing by to do interviews like a lot of actors are - I was with my mum on Hampstead Heath. There’s so much going on between the nomination and the event, like picking what to wear, and I didn’t know much about fashion or designers so the American Vogue flew over with a photographer and reams of dresses. They turned up at my two-up, two-down in Muswell Hill in a big van and tried to crush everything into my tiny living room and do a photoshoot. I don’t know what they were expecting but it was very funny and a bit embarrassing.

It’d be different now I’m older but I felt like a rabbit in the headlights before in the run-up. I’d gone from doing bits and pieces in film and theatre and driving a battered car to going to the Academy Awards within a month. Everywhere you go there are actors and nominees - I went for a swim at The Four Seasons on the morning of the ceremony and my mum said she spotted Glenn Close in the pool. We were doing a lot of star-spotting! Then we all had breakfast together, before someone arrived to do make-up and hair, the dress came and my daughter went away to Don Cheadle’s house to play with his kids while we were at the ceremony. I couldn’t take it all in but having my family with me kept me grounded. Even if I found it quite overwhelming, they enjoyed it so much. They still talk about it!

You’re in the limo for hours, then you’re on the red carpet. I was basically in shock so I was really smiling - my whole face was aching afterwards. Everyone said it would be Cate Blanchett’s night so I was expecting her to win and the whole show went by really quickly after that. I didn’t have a speech prepared and I don’t know if that was wise on reflection. I remember thinking before it was read out: 'Maybe I should have...'. I was so sure I wouldn’t win. Then I thought, 'If I do win I’m just going to say nothing – what a missed opportunity', but the speeches I’ve always enjoyed are the ones where people just get up and say what’s in their heads.

After the ceremony we went to the Governors Ball for dinner, then onto the Vanity Fair party which was like being in a sardine can. I told my mum that I’d had enough and we went back to the hotel for a hot chocolate. It was one of biggest moments in my life but what I remember most from that time is how much I loved making the film I was nominated for. I’m totally privileged to have had that experience, but I haven’t watched the Oscars since. My mum is fixated though.

 

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