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Interview

Olly Moss Talks About His Oscars Poster
Exclusive: British artist spills the beans

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It's the poster that has taken the internet by storm. This year's official "85 Years of Oscars" one-sheet is yet another belter by the insanely talented Empire contributor Olly Moss - a gorgeous and typically Mossian work which takes an Oscar statue for each Best Picture winner in the awards' history, and tweaks it accordingly for each film.

We caught up with Moss yesterday for a detailed chat about the poster, its origins and the best reaction he's had to date...


Olly Moss 85th Oscars Poster

Click for larger version

You must be pleased with the final poster?
The reaction's been really good. It's always a bit nervewracking when you put that much time into something, and you're conscious that it better not be a flop. When they weren't all done, they looked really crappy until the last minute. It was really daunting at that point.

When did you finish?
I finished about two weeks ago, about ten days ago. Since then I've been doing something for Les Mis with Mondo which has been almost as hard. It's a messy start to 2013.

How long did it take?
"I thought 'what if Rocky had his arms up on the platform?' And I went from there."
Pretty much all of my January. It took me about three to four weeks and in the middle of it, my computer exploded. I lost about five days there. My target was to do ten a day and some were easier than others, obviously. Some elements I could reuse and I found ways to speed it up.

When did the project come about?
Just before Christmas (2012), by mid-December and they wanted an idea just before Christmas. I came up with an idea, pitched them the idea and heard back and then I had to do it. The only problem was it was an idea I liked and they went with it, and I was like, 'oh fuck, I've got to make it!'

Why this idea?
I went with that idea because it was the only way I could think - they wanted something that had every Best Picture Winner on it. I needed to find a way to do that and make it look like an Oscars poster. The only way I could think of was do it like this. The first one, I thought 'what if Rocky had his arms up on the platform?' And I went from there.

How many of the films had you seen beforehand?
A lot of them I'd seen already. A bunch of friends who were movie nuts helped me out with the older ones, and there were synopses and I got a lot of DVDs and skim-watched them and looked for recurring themes and imagery you could pick up on. I was looking for things that summed up the main theme in the statue.

What were the most difficult ones?
Crash was really difficult (see below). Jock [artist, The Losers, Snapshot] said you should do a black Oscar. That was a tough one but I thought it would work as it's the only movie about racism and it's the only black one on the poster, and that would work with the theme of the movie. And Gentleman's Agreement was tough '" that and Crash were the only movies about race and when you have to sum up race on a tiny statue, it's difficult to do it without resorting to broad stereotypes that could be considered offensive. Gentleman's Agreement is about a man disguised as a Jew, and to do that sensitively and in a way that would be instantly recognizable was tough.

Any other tough ones? I love the Big Ben idea for Cavalcade.
Cavalcade was tough. That movie you can't get on DVD, it's the only one not available on DVD. Someone had cheekily uploaded the whole thing to DVD and the most famous scene in that is with the couple on the Titanic, but I already had a Titanic one on there. The opening shot is Big Ben, and I thought that from a distance it looks the same. You wouldn't know it wasn't an Oscar statue until you got closer.


Crash

Gentleman's Agreement

Cavalcade

How were the Academy to work with?
They were really accommodating. The only art direction they had, the only thing they made me change was the Annie Hall one, which was originally Woody Allen. They'd rather it were Diane Keaton, the title character.

Was there anything you thought you wouldn't get away with?
A Beautiful Mind, there were some I thought there was no way they were going to let me get away with this. I thought they might see it as a slight to the film if there wasn't a statue there. But they were super-good about it and the little jokes we put in there. I was worried they wouldn't like the female and child ones, I was concerned they wouldn't let me mess around with the statue too much. Oscar shoots himself in the head [for The Deer Hunter]. They were fine with it. Oh, they were worried it looked too much like Ben Kingsley and not enough like Gandhi.

You also daub in splashes of colour from time to time.
I didn't do splashes of colour too often. I wanted to stay to red. You look at Oscar posters and there's definitely a pallet they're used to using. They wanted someone younger who would bring this to a new audience and I was quite conscious of that, but at the same time this was my opportunity to do an Oscars poster and I wanted it to be within that tradition. I wanted it to fit in with what they had done and add my sense of humour to it.

You're following in pretty illustrious footsteps...
Saul Bass did about five, I think. Alex Ross as well. It's great. I'm very proud. It's all downhill from here. There's nowhere else to go.

Have you had any reactions from surprising people?
I got a tweet from Richard Dreyfuss last night, and he said he really liked it. That justifies it all.

Interview by Chris Hewitt

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