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Backstage Notes: ‘Such a Grown-Up Thing’

<i> Times Staff Writers </i>

On stage, in front of the cameras, Dustin Hoffman heard Michael Douglas call his name: Best actor for “Rain Man.”

Backstage, where winners and presenters went behind the cameras to talk to the media, a dozen young actors burst into cheers and applause.

For the record:
12:00 AM, Apr. 01, 1989 FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Saturday April 1, 1989 Home Edition Calendar Part 5 Page 2 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
Barry Morrow, left and Ronald Bass shared best screenplay Oscar honors for “Rain Man.” Their names were transposed in a caption Thursday.

The young actors, who had appeared on the show in a song-and-dance routine, “I Want to Win an Oscar,” admitted to being star-struck at the sight of such luminaries as Lucille Ball and Jimmy Stewart. They couldn’t contain their enthusiasm for another idol, Dustin Hoffman.

Later, when the actor appeared backstage, he said he was sorry that his “Rain Man” co-star, and the young actors’ peer, Tom Cruise, was not nominated for an Academy Award. Cruise, Hoffman insisted, was the “adhesive of the film.”

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Despite that accolade, when Hoffman collected his award, he forgot to mention Cruise or director Barry Levinson. Backstage, Hoffman jokingly blamed his autistic savant character. “The character stayed with me,” he quipped.

When asked how many lines he had in “Rain Man” Hoffman first looked confused. Then he laughed and said, understanding: “Raymond probably would have counted them, but I didn’t.”

Jodie Foster couldn’t stop laughing as she moved in front of a microphone backstage.

“This feels like such a grown-up thing, an Establishment thing,” Foster said, still recovering from the shock of winning the best actress Oscar. “I’ve always considered myself an underdog. I don’t know why, I guess I identify with the underdog.”

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Foster defended the violent rape scene in “The Accused”: “It takes the truth and it smacks it in your face.”

In her film career, Foster said, she wants to “play real people, female heroes, people who are surviving, getting through the day.”

Foster said the great influences in her life have been her mother, Brandy, and “the great directors, European directors more than anyone else, probably just because I’ve been stuck in European art houses so much of my life.”

Geena Davis showed not a trace of Muriel Pritchett, the quirky dog-trainer in “The Accidental Tourist” that earned her the Oscar as best supporting actress. A down-to-earth Davis joked that she hoped the award would lead her beyond the oddball parts she usually plays.

“That’s why I wore such a serious dress,” she said, laughing. Davis’ shimmering strapless aqua gown was one of the hits of the evening.

Several critics have argued that the academy should have considered Davis in the best actress category. Davis disagreed.

“In my opinion I was in the right category,” she said. “It was William Hurt’s story.”

Despite the somber Oscar that will now rest on her shelf, Davis’ upcoming film--"Earth Girls Are Easy,” co-starring husband Jeff Goldblum--is in keeping with her taste for unusual parts and stories. After that, she will star in “Quick Change,” with Bill Murray and Randy Quaid.

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Davis credited her husband--with whom she co-starred in “The Fly” three years ago--with coaching her during “The Accidental Tourist.”

“He was sort of instrumental,” she said.

Kevin Kline, winner for best supporting actor, said he was “very encouraged” that he had won for a comedic role.

“That doesn’t usually happen,” he said.

When reporters pressed him about protests that stutterers had launched against “A Fish Called Wanda,” Kline fell back on a joke. “You know, John Cleese (“Wanda’s” writer and co-star) mentioned that,” Kline said of the protests. “He said he had gotten a lot of calls from stupid people, too.”

In “Wanda,” Kline plays a boisterous, cruel American bully. Stutterers are not the only ones to suffer the comic wrath of Kline and the film makers--so do animal lovers, old ladies, and the entire British Empire.

“We have to laugh at tragic things,” Kline said. “Let’s not loose our sense of irony. . . . (My character) was supposed to be completely reprehensible, repelling.”

As with Davis, some critics had said that Kline’s performance was better suited for the lead actor category. “It’s very nebulous,” Kline said. “I don’t know--you tell me.”

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Not all the winners were satisfied with the academy treatment of their films. The winners for best achievement in sound effects editing--Charles L. Campbell and Louis L. Edemann--were bitter about the academy’s shutout of their film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” from the major award categories. All of the film’s six nominations (and three wins) were for technical achievements.

Campbell said the academy’s decision not to nominate “Roger Rabbit” for best picture “was a total mystery” to him. The movie’s star, Bob Hoskins, “definitely” should have been a nominee,” Campbell said. “He was seeing and hearing things that weren’t even there.”

Ken Ralston, one of three “Roger Rabbit” winners for visual effects, agreed that the academy shortchanged the film, and said he thought Robert Zemeckis should have been nominated for best director. Zemeckis was the only nominee of the prestigious Directors Guild Award not to receive an academy nomination this year.

The sole winner from “Mississippi Burning” echoed that disappointment. Peter Biziou, who won the award for his achievements in cinematography, said it was “possible” that the political controversy over the film hindered its chances with academy members.

“All I know is that it was meant as a piece of drama,” Biziou said.

“I feel real happy when people defend it,” said “Mississippi Burning” co-star Willem Dafoe, one of the award presenters. “I wish more people would see it.”

This wasn’t the first time that Carly Simon--winner of the best original song award for her “Working Girl” anthem, “Let the River Run"--has won a major award. She collected a Grammy in 1972. But Simon said this was the first time she was in attendance to collect it.

Simon said she got the inspiration for the song riding the ferry into Manhattan. “It was a hymn to the morning, with a jungle beat,” she said of her song. She also credited Walt Whitman and her husband, poet Jim Hart, with inspiring the lyrics.

Like the movie itself, Simon’s song is an ode to all the humanity that pours into faceless downtown skyscrapers each day. “There’s something poignant about all that aspiration,” Simon said.

Richard Williams, who was given the special achievement award for animation direction on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” said an animation renaissance is in the works. Now, he said, he would be able to finish the picture he’s been working on for 23 years, the animated “The Thief and the Cobbler.”

“That’s the ultimate development,” joked Robin Williams, who had presented the award to the animator.

And speaking of Robin Williams. When asked if he was excited about being a father for the second time, he answered: “It’s wonderful, we’re doing a movie about it called ‘Fetal Attraction.’ ”

Tom Cruise, who appeared backstage with “Rain Man” co-star Dustin Hoffman and director Barry Levinson, was asked to comment on rumors that he was in ill health.

“It’s not true, I’m here,” said Cruise, who entered a Paris hospital earlier this month for a variety of tests. “I read one report that I had four hours to live . . . and I was hoping that the show wouldn’t last that long.”

Cruise, sporting a crew cut for his latest film “Born on the Fourth of July,” joked that he was hoping to use the extra minutes to spend with his wife, Mimi Rogers.

Asked if he’d like to do another film with Hoffman, he said “I hope so,” then added he’d like to work again with the entire “Rain Main” team.


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