SURE, Jon Stewart was funny, the musical numbers entertaining and the anniversary film clips were a fun ride through Oscars past. But that's just the stuff you were meant to see. Backstage is a ride of another sort entirely -- one not necessarily meant for audience consumption, one in which the stars can be themselves. Here, then, are dispatches from backstage at the Kodak Theatre.
A case of nerves: As French actress Marion Cotillard came offstage after her win, a crush of photographers swarmed her (and blocked the passage of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova who were trying to go onstage to perform their nominated song). Cotillard embraced Forest Whitaker, who had presented her with the Oscar, for several seconds backstage. By the time she got to the "thank-you cam," Cotillard was shaking so violently she looked close to hyperventilating. She was whisked away to a makeup artist who dabbed her face before heading for the onslaught of reporters in the interview room.
"This is crazy," Cotillard said. "This is totally crazy! Oh, la la la la la! Oh, la la la la."
Whew! Jon Stewart high-fived his writers onstage once the show closed. As he walked through the theater, the crew cheered him and producer Gilbert Cates gave him a bear hug. "You didn't lose focus," Cates told him.
"We just said let's get back to basics," Stewart said of the telecast. "You let it come to you. You let it come. The crowd was ready to have fun."
Ready for his close-up: Tom Hanks exchanged pleasantries with his " Charlie Wilson's War" costar Amy Adams, talking about her Vanity Fair cover, her costume changes, her musical number. As they chatted before Hanks took the stage to present the documentary winners, the makeup lady came over with a powder puff. A clutch of photographers started snapping away at the touch-up action.
"Oh, get a picture of this," Hanks deadpanned. "Nothing embarrassing about being backstage at all. Oh, look at Tom Hanks. He stormed the beach at Normandy in 'Saving Private Ryan' and here he is with a powder puff on his face."
Act casual: After seemingly taking her supporting actress win in stride, joking in her speech about how the Oscar looks like her agent and ribbing "Michael Clayton" costar George Clooney about having played Batman, Tilda Swinton walked offstage gobsmacked, muttering "Wow" under her breath. Then, hearing her name being called, she turned to see presenter Alan Arkin handing her the envelope with her name on it.
"Do you want this?" Arkin asked.
"Oh, yes!" she said. "This is the proof!"
In passing: Daniel Day-Lewis, exiting from his lead actor win, and Martin Scorsese, preparing to present the directing award, shook hands as they passed. "This is the second time I've been here," Scorsese said. "And this is the second time you've won." We're certain there was something deep in those words, but Day-Lewis was led back down to his seat before Scorsese could enlighten anyone.
Hold everything: After a marathon red carpet tour, Katherine Heigl rushed backstage before the show and came to a screeching halt outside the unisex bathrooms. Unfortunately, both were locked and she feared she might not make it. "Great," she told her mother-manager, "one more thing I have to be nervous about."
Later, after her presentation of the makeup award, Heigl made a beeline for the loading dock for a cigarette. "You did it!" said Danette Herman, the executive in charge of talent. "It's finally over," Heigl said breathlessly, smelling slightly of nicotine.
A moment with Jack: Running into Nicole Kidman, Jack Nicholson sized her up, eyes pausing on her teeny baby bump, and whispered quietly to her. Then he smiled that open-mouth smile of his and embraced the pregnant Kidman. "You look great," he said. Even up close, his persona is movie-size.
Dazed and amused: Hansard and Irglova, who eventually did make their way onstage to perform, made a return trip to accept the Oscar for original song. They were beaming as they went back to the wings.
"It doesn't feel like it's real," said Irglova. "It's amazing!"
As soon as he spotted his "Once" writer-director, John Carney, Hansard jumped into his arms, then as they separated, he thrust his Oscar into his hands.
"Have a go!" he said. "Have a go!"
In a pinch: Just two minutes before she headed onstage to present the award for costume design, Jennifer Garner confirmed what we've all wondered about these goddesses of glamour: "I wish I could take my shoes off," she told the stage manager. Then she thought better of it. "I didn't mean that, karmic dressing gods!" she recanted.
The hair pair: Seth Rogen to Jonah Hill as the two headed onstage to present the sound awards: "Let's go get some Oscars, dude."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times