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THE PRODUCER - STEPHEN WOOLLEY

A British film industry stalwart, Stephen Woolley produced The Crying Game, a Best Picture nominee in 1993.

I remember it very vividly. It was sort of surreal and it was both exciting and wonderfully dazzling, and also strangely disappointing. You’re just in a room, like any other awards. The theatre was just like any other theatre. It’s a TV show, really. As soon as you go to the loo, they have paid people to come and sit down in your seat so when the camera turns on the audience, it’s always full. That aspect of it is strange, it’s not something you’re prepared for.

It was thrilling and amazing for that. I did get to meet Walter Matthau, one of my all-time heroes. That blew me away. I remember it with a great deal of fondness. Even the Globes in those days was a minor affair. It wasn’t quite as full-on as the Oscars. Everything else was pretty enclosed and pretty industry and not as showbiz as the Oscars. You do literally sit a row away from Jack Nicholson. You do literally get in a lift with Jane Fonda – you can tell how dated I am! Now they’d be getting in a lift with Jennifer Aniston or something, but in those days it was still the old, traditional, big stars. What’s great about the Oscars and the BAFTAs and all awards is that you do tend to come away, having made a few friends and having a few words of wisdom handed down to you.

We’d met Clint Eastwood, who was nominated for Unforgiven, quite a few times at the other events. He had kindly come over to our table on quite a few occasions because he was a big fan of The Crying Game. He had often hung out with us on the underdog table where all the shabby Europeans were sitting, rather than sit on the corporate table. It was a lot of fun and utterly thrilling to hang out with Clint Eastwood. And when we were going, I got stuck on the red carpet with him and said, “I feel that any minute now, someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and tell me to go home” and he said, “No, no, no, you’re not the outsider here. I’m the outsider and have been my entire career”. Basically, he was a TV actor in Rawhide and he was supposed to be a male pin-up and then went off to do Spaghetti Westerns. Now we think of that as a pretty nice term, but in those days it was a term of insult. Then, of course, he came back to Hollywood and made Dirty Harry and got lambasted by the left and everyone for being a right-wing fascist. The poor guy, he said, “If anyone’s going to get thrown out of the Oscars, it’s me!” That really relaxed me, that he would say that to me.

In fact, even losing wasn’t such a huge pain, because we lost to Clint. When the camera pans on my face during the nominations, there I am with a huge, beaming smile, because Jack Nicholson was presenting it. And if it had been my name in the envelope, there’s no way he would have said it. There is only one name he knows to say, and that’s Clint Eastwood! So as soon as he said “Clint Eastwood”, this huge relief came over me. It’s great to come second to Clint. That’s my maxim for life, actually.

But, that aside, the whole night was full of people getting so pissed off that they didn’t win! People are so competitive. When each film wins, you know that that’s four films that have lost, and more importantly, you have agents and PR people and accountants and managers and your partner and your mum and dad and friends have come to see you win an Oscar, and when you don’t win, by the end of the evening, 80 per cent of the audience is really pissed off. “That was your Oscar, what happened? You got robbed!” So you’re kind of in an audience, at the end, that is not the friendliest crowd. It’s not as bad as a Leeds United-Chelsea game, but watch out whose toes you tread on, as they could explode.

But it was great fun. I loved every minute of it. They took the piss out of The Crying Game the whole time. I remember vividly when we released the film in the UK, I had written a producer’s letter to the critics saying, please do not reveal the twist of the movie. In America, that really took on. Critics made a point of saying, you must not reveal this, and it was incredibly dramatic. “When you know what the twist is, you will be freaked out!” It just got out of hand. So on stage, Billy Crystal made a point of, in his opening number, miming a whole thing about a woman who may have had something else between her legs. And then he did reveal the twist, and continued to do it throughout the evening, and that was really fun. Being ridiculed by Billy Crystal? Doesn’t get any better. I was introduced once at the Spurs-Arsenal game in the centre circle at half-time, because I’m a big Spurs fan, and as we were leaving, the Arsenal fans were singing, “Who the fucking hell are you?” And that’s one of the highlights of my life, along with being ridiculed by Billy Crystal and coming second to Clint Eastwood.
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