This year’s Oscar speeches were full of the expected thank-yous to colleagues, friends and agents, but some also took a turn for the deeply personal and the political — with stories of suicide and calls for pay equity, racial justice and tolerance.
Patricia Arquette, after winning the supporting actress trophy for “Boyhood,” stood up for women’s rights. “We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” she said, the passion building in her voice. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Her comments elicited rousing applause from the audience, especially from cheering fellow nominee Meryl Streep.
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The night’s big winner, “Birdman” writer-producer-director Alejandro G. Inarritu, appended his third speech of the ceremony — this one for best picture — by saying, “I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build the government we deserve.
"And the ones that live in this country who are part of the latest generation of immigrants, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.”
Common and John Legend didn’t shy from the social relevance of their work. Common referred to recently performing their now-Oscar-winning song, “Glory,” from the movie “Selma” on the same bridge from which the historic civil rights march began.
“The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status,” the rapper, who also appeared in the film, said. “The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South Side of Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy.”
Legend added: “We say that ‘Selma is now’ because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real.”
Tying the political to the personal was producer Dana Perry, whose “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” won the short subject documentary Oscar.
As the orchestra began to play her off, she continued her speech, “.... and I want to dedicate this to my son, Evan Perry. We lost him to suicide.” The orchestra abruptly stopped. “We should talk about suicide out loud. This is for him.”
Backstage, Perry said her son was just 15 when he killed himself. “The best prevention for suicide is awareness and discussion, and not trying to sweep it under the rug. We've got a crisis with our veterans who are killing themselves. More veterans have killed themselves than have died in these wars of the last, you know, decade or so.”
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Graham Moore also revealed a personal connection to suicide after his adapted screenplay win for “The Imitation Game,” the story of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who was persecuted for his homosexuality despite having broken a key Nazi code.
“Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out at all of these disconcertingly attractive faces. And I do, and that's the most unfair thing I think I've ever heard. So in this brief time here, what I want to use it to do is to say this: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself. Because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I'm standing here.
“And so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird or she's different or she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do, you do. Stay weird, stay different, and when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”
Moore exited the stage to cheers ringing throughout the Dolby Theatre.