Who do you really thank for winning an Oscar? If 1988's crop of grateful winners are any indication, the writers--absent from the Oscar gala Monday night and now into the sixth week of their strike against producers--are the most likely suspects.
In a marked contrast to previous years, the writers of Academy Award-winning films were thanked by actors, directors and even producers. But when the writers themselves accepted their awards, no mention was made of strikes. It was their chance to shine. (In a telling indication of late-'80s Zeitgeist , agents were thanked almost as often as writers.)
"Wow!" exploded John Patrick Shanley, who won for his original screenplay for "Moonstruck." "I don't care if you're supposed to be cool (when you get up to accept the award)--this is fantastic!" Shanley, a playwright and screenwriter, told the capacity audience of 6,000 in the Shrine Auditorium that he wanted to thank "everybody who ever punched or kissed me, or everyone whom I ever punched or kissed."
Mark Peploe, who co-wrote (with director Bernardo Bertolucci) the night's biggest success, "The Last Emperor," was more subdued than Shanley, and thanked Bertolucci "for taking me to China and showing me how the other half of the world lives."
And best supporting actor winner Sean Connery ("The Untouchables") thanked the writers most profoundly. "I had decided I would give (the statuette) to my wife if I won," Connery said. "But I found out backstage that they're worth $15,000--so now I'm not so sure." But Connery added: "If I could get anything (in exchange) for this award, I'd ask for an end to the writers' strike."
By contrast, best supporting actress winner Olympia Dukakis ("Moonstruck") gave the usual thank-yous first to her director (Norman Jewison) and fellow actors, but included Shanley afterward. (Dukakis saved her biggest shout to encourage her cousin, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, now running for President: "OK, Michael--let's go!")
Best Actor Michael Douglas ("Wall Street") thanked his writer/director Oliver Stone--whose last film, "Platoon," snowballed through last year's Oscars like "The Last Emperor" did this year. Said Douglas: "A large part of (the award) belongs to Oliver Stone, casting me in a part nobody thought I could play. A lot of him is in this." (Douglas also thanked his father, Kirk, "especially for helping his son step out of the shadow." Douglas' sign-off? To his young son: "Good night, Cameron. I love ya!")
But Cher, for whom the best actress award marked a personal triumph, thanked her makeup person and hairdresser before anyone else involved with "Moonstruck." "When I was little, my mother kept saying, 'I want to you to be something'--and I guess (the award) represents 23 or 24 years of my work . . . and I never won anything from my peers before, so this means a great deal." Visibly moved, Cher added: "I don't think this means I am somebody, but I guess I'm on my way."
And producer Jeremy Thomas, whose "The Last Emperor" won best picture and all eight other awards for which it was nominated, thanked the academy when he accepted the best picture award. "This award is very, very rewarding," Thomas said. "This award from the academy is a real affirmation to me that independent cinema can be both epic and popular." In a dig at Columbia Pictures, which has released the film in a slow, deliberate fashion in this country, Thomas said: "I hope this Oscar means that many, many more people will see this picture in America."