There is an audible gasp at the Shrine Auditorium when "American Hustle" wins best cast on Saturday night. The actors arrive giddy onstage, and in an instant they are backstage.
At first it's whispers and hugs, then there is a blitz of camera flashes, and Jennifer Lawrence says she doesn't want to talk to press.
"I hate myself when I talk," she says to her publicist as Bradley Cooper strides to her side.
"Was this a surprise?" a reporter asks him.
He blinks, eyes wide and unbelieving and then shakes his head as if the question is a dumb one.
But when it comes time to talk he can't summon words, and it's clear that he's shocked.
"Yeah," he mouths adamantly.
Suddenly Lawrence is in trouble. Her super-tall black high heels have become caught in the hem of her tight, sparkly dress. She wriggles her feet, but it's hopeless, she can't walk.
Handlers hold her arms and Cooper gets on his knees in front of her. He grabs one foot at a time and expertly extricates the limbs from the fabric.
Soon the cast moves into the room where they pick up their heavy, mildew-green SAG statues.
"Unfortunately you can't get one of these," someone says jokingly to Robert DeNiro, who played an uncredited role in the film.
"Come on, Bob. You want to get yours?" Cooper asks.
"I'm not really ethically eligible, but I'll take it," says DeNiro.
"Hi, this is my little friend," Elisabeth Rohm, holding her statue like it's a baby, says to DeNiro.
Next the cast signs posters and a giant Champagne bottle for auction. That's when director David O. Russell appears, beaming. He and Cooper hug, then part, but just barely. They hold onto one another's arms and talk closely, secretly, smiling.
Soon the actors are swept into a gantlet of photo booths. There is yelling and a cacophony of camera snaps and blinding flashes. It's disorienting, and the cast is sweating, blinking, off-balance.
Russell rushes from one side of the group to the other, trying to appreciate and thank everyone.
In the final photo booth Patsy Meck appears. She plays Cooper's mother in the film. He turns to her and holds her arms.
"Patsy, why weren't you up there? You were in the bathroom?" Cooper laments playfully, sounding a bit like DeNiro's character in "Silver Linings Playbook." "I named you."
"He named you, Patsy," agrees Russell, who soon explains the depth of his gratitude for the night's top honor.
"I lost in that room with 'The Fighter,' I lost in that room with 'Silver Linings'," says Russell. "I really didn't expect this. And that acknowledgment is huge to us. Huge."
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