With mixed emotions

Times Staff Writers

Thrilling, and yet ... backstage at the 75th Academy Awards it was a night when winners clutched their Oscars a bit tighter than usual as their comments drifted between winning and war.

Wearing a peace pin in his lapel, Chris Cooper, who took home the Oscar for best supporting actor for "Adaptation," expanded on his on-stage wish for peace: "I was watching television today, and the situation is constantly changing. As it goes on, minds will change." Still, he added, "There's not too much that would keep me from enjoying this night."

And Adrien Brody, named best actor for "The Pianist," said it was difficult "to celebrate when there is sadness and conflict in the world. The timing is a little odd. I would like to celebrate wholeheartedly, but it's a little odd when there is suffering."

Peter O'Toole described the night as "exhilarating, charming, delightful," all in a soft-spoken drone. Winner of the academy's lifetime achievement award, O'Toole said that despite the war, he believed the show should go on. "I'm an entertainer. That's my job," a diversion for the troops -- and people everywhere. "My job is to cheer them up if I can."

O'Toole, who was 7 years old in 1939 when World War II began, recalled atomic bombs dropping on Japan. Around that time, he also won a swimming trophy. "If we civilians can't go on properly, what on earth are they fighting for?"

Where some were understated, Michael Moore was anything but. After his antiwar, anti-Bush acceptance speech provoked boos, Moore was cheered as he walked into the pressroom. Moore, who with Michael Donovan won an Oscar for "Bowling for Columbine," was asked why he chose to express his opposition to both the war and the president. "I'm an American. You don't leave your citizenship when you enter the doors for the Kodak Theatre."

Moore said he was "extremely grateful for the response" by the academy's audience. As he spoke the lights dimmed. A technical quirk, but one that made him and everyone else laugh. When asked if he was concerned about being blackballed by Hollywood, Moore replied, "I'm funded by Canadians," and laughed before launching into a polemic on politics, violence and war as his co-winner Donovan stood by, nodding in agreement.

"I'm still in shock," said Catherine Zeta-Jones of her win as best supporting actress. "I just know a dream came true for me tonight. I'm dumbstruck."

Martin Richards, producer of "Chicago," the Oscar winner for best picture, said, "The stars were all in the right place. I'm overwhelmed." As to celebrating in the shadow of war, Richards said, "I believe this is what our boys are fighting for. I'm against war, but I'm very pro my-troops." Richards decided not to wear a peace pin for fear the troops might be offended.

He continually gave credit to director Rob Marshall: "This Oscar belongs to Rob Marshall. So I will keep this for six months, and then he can keep it for six months, and it will go back and forth. If it doesn't work out, Rob can move in with me."

"I'm a little giddy," said Nicole Kidman, just moments after being named best actress. "I have no recollection of what I said." The actress said she grappled with whether to come to Oscars. "Is it frivolity?" she wondered, but ultimately decided to attend.

Pedro Almodovar, who won in the original screenplay category for his film "Talk to Her," dedicated his Oscar to "all the voices who speak out on behalf of international law, human rights and peace. I am very embarrassed about the Spanish government." As to winning itself, Almodovar said, "This is like believing in miracles."

For Beatrice De Alba, who with John Jackson won the makeup category for their work in "Frida," which starred Salma Hayek, the night was about history. "I dedicate this Oscar to every Hispanic woman who has tried to make a mark in this world and to Salma in particular for helping to facilitate this for all of us."

Another "Frida" winner, Elliot Goldenthal, who picked up an Oscar for best score, said of Frida and Diego Rivera: "They were artists and also expressed a political conscience."

There were those who were not at the Kodak, but not forgotten. Luis Resto, a co-writer of "Lose Yourself," the winner for best song from the film "8 Mile," said his collaborator and the film's star, Eminem, "would feel great and proud about this." The rapper did not attend the ceremony, Resto said, because "he's running a record label and he needed a break. But he will be very stunned and overjoyed that he won, believe me. It means a lot to him."

Joe Rygiel, one of the winning visual effects team for "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," said that director Peter Jackson wasn't there to share the moment, instead choosing to stay in New Zealand to edit the third and final film in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. "He felt it was better to stay there than risking getting on a plane and getting stuck here," Rygiel said.

Others focused on the memories. Martin Walsh, who won the best film editing Oscar for "Chicago," said he and director Marshall spent a year working together: "We shot miles and miles and miles of film, so it made life easier. We were in the same room together, so we got to know each other pretty well."


'I'm proud to live in a country which gives artists the right to sing and say what we believe.'

Barbra Streisand, presenting the Oscar for best song

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