“It’s all a blur,” winners like to say of that magic moment when their most esteemed peers (not to mention upward of 40 million television viewers) watch them take the stage at the Academy Awards to claim the ultimate show business prize — that glittering, 81/2-pound validation of their creative achievements. But what happens after that, when the trophy rides shotgun in their cars and enters their homes to greet them each bleary, back-to-the-grindstone morning?
To find out, we invited a handful of winners from recent big nights to show us and tell us where the Oscar has landed.
FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2015
Morgan Neville, documentary filmmaker, “Best of Enemies,” about the intellectual rivalry between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. Winner, 2014, for best documentary feature, “Twenty Feet from Stardom.”
After making the scene at Oscar post-parties with his wife, Jenette, his trophy met the public at Astroburger on Santa Monica Boulevard during the wee hours of the morning. “It was 4 a.m., and my wife and I were starving, so we went there to get a hamburger and brought the Oscar in with us. It turned the whole place into a party — everybody got up and joined us to take pictures. It was so much fun. You only have a license to do something like that on Oscar night.”
Later, the golden boy established itself on the fireplace mantel at the filmmaker’s Pasadena home, directly across from a staircase. “I see it as soon as I come down the stairs each morning, and it reassures me that it wasn’t all a dream,” Neville explains. Right next to it is a photo taken on his wedding day in New Orleans, because Oscar night “is such a surreal experience, a time when it’s hard to be in the moment, like your own wedding.”
And what’s it like having Oscar around the house? “People are intimidated by it. At a party, nobody will go near it until you give them permission. So I say, ‘Go ahead, take a picture.’ Once somebody picks it up, everybody pounces on it.” Does it go anywhere? “I have brought Oscar around to meet people now and then. When I was nominated, a number of people said, ‘If you win, you need to let me meet Oscar.’ All kinds of people — like the girl at the local coffee shop. I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ But then it actually happened, so I did.”
John Ridley, creator and director of drama series “American Crime,” premiering March 5; Winner, 2014, best adapted screenplay, for “Twelve Years a Slave.”
He initially left the Oscar with his wife, Gayle, in L.A. when he flew to Austin the day after the awards to begin location work for “American Crime.” Later, he decided to bestow it on his parents, John and Terri, who live outside Milwaukee, where he grew up. “It belongs with them — they pushed me to do my best and were my best examples.”
So on his mother’s birthday, Ridley says, “I wrapped it up and put it in a box and gave it to her. It’s quite a heavy object, and she couldn’t figure out what it could be. It was very nice when she opened it — she was surprised and delighted.” After a while, though, Ridley’s mom confessed that she found it nerve-racking to have Oscar around the house. “She was worried someone would break in and steal it. I said, ‘They’re more likely to steal your Toyota.’ But they wouldn’t display it, and they were afraid to leave the house. So I picked it up when I went to visit.” Even so, the trophy still hasn’t returned to Los Angeles. “We have a place in New York, and it’s in safekeeping there. I went to school at NYU, and it’s where I decided I wanted to write and tell stories, so that seems like the right place for it to be.”
For the Record
Feb. 21, 7:38 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that “American Crime” premieres March 8; it premieres March 5.
Chris Buck, co-director with Jennifer Lee of upcoming Disney short “Frozen Fever,” which premieres in theaters with “Cinderella” in March. Winner, 2014, for directing (with Lee) best animated feature film “Frozen.”
Buck’s Oscar resides in a trophy area he created behind a bar at his La Canada home, with the 3-D clay character models for “Frozen” and his Annie, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Critics’ Choice prizes. Recently, Buck surrounded it with eight look-alike pseudo Oscars that his three sons took home for acting in plays at La Canada High School.
“I don’t know why he put them there — they’re phony and plastic. His is the real thing,” protests son Reed, 18, a high school senior and professional voice-over actor. But family clearly comes first for Buck, who in his acceptance speech dedicated the Oscar to his son Ryder, who was killed in a car accident a month before “Frozen” was released.
Having an Oscar in the house caused quite a commotion in the neighborhood, he reports. “Everybody would come over and make a beeline for it. If I was here, they’d say, ‘Oh, you can get in the picture too.’ But mainly they wanted that shot of themselves with it.” To stir things up further, Buck posted a video online that shows Bear, the family dog, carrying the Oscar around in his mouth, then settling down on the grass to chew on it. “People went nuts,” he reports. “They said ‘No!! What are you doing?’” Just having some fun, as it turns out: The award in the video is one of the pseudo Oscars. “I put peanut butter on it,” Buck explains.
Robin Mathews, makeup department head, “Wild.” Winner, 2014, for best achievement in makeup and hairstyling (with Adruitha Lee), “Dallas Buyers Club.”
“Of course you sleep with it the first night,” Mathews says. The Oscar then went home with her to New Orleans, where, she says, “I kept him in sight. Mostly, I sat him next to the TV or on the coffee table. But I’m hardly ever there — I travel for a living. I was invited to speak at makeup trade shows in Paris and New York, and they wanted me to bring it, so I did.”
How does Oscar travel? “At first I hand-carried him. Security wasn’t a problem at all. Everyone said, ‘Is that real? Can I see it?’ He went through the scanner in a tray, as he’s done many times since. The flight attendants give him his own seat — I don’t buy it for him — and buckle him in with blankets and pillows to cushion him. The British Airlines flight I took to Europe was the funniest — I was hoping to get some sleep, but the attendants kept begging me to bring him up to the pilots’ area, where they took pictures with him and we had free champagne. He’s such an ambassador of good will all over the world. Lately, though, I wrap him up and put him in his own little travel bag.
“People ask me how my life has changed. It has, and it hasn’t. It’s so great to have that recognition. But day to day, it doesn’t change. You still have to keep doing a great job.”
Mark Bridges, costume designer, “Inherent Vice,” “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Winner, 2012, best achievement in costume design, “The Artist.”
The terraced, Spanish-style Los Feliz home that Bridges shares with family members would make a perfect showcase for any piece of Hollywood history, but most days he prefers not to display the Oscar he won for designing the glamorous, silent film-era costumes in “The Artist.” Rather, he keeps it hidden in a closet, wrapped in a cloth bag and dropped into the dark interior of a tall mid-century vase. “It’s the pinnacle of everything I’ve worked for, but I don’t need to see it every day,” he explains. “I like to be more focused than that.”
Growing up in Niagara Falls, N.Y., the young Bridges was movie-obsessed and fixated on the Oscars — he still has a photo book of Academy Awards history going up to 1972, the year he got it. “I would check off every film I’d seen, so to be a part of that history now is truly a lifelong dream,” he says. But it’s a dream he wants to keep in perspective. “To look at Oscar on the way out the door to work every day is a lot to live up to,” says Bridges, who shares the house with his brother, Michael, sister-in-law Lalanya and nieces Geneva, 5, and Florence, 2. “I just want to do what I’ve always done for the last 25 years, which is go out and do my best job.”
This approach may be reverse psychology at its finest, given that Bridges is nominated again this year, for the 1970s-era costumes he brought to Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice.” So will Oscar get to come out of the closet? Most definitely. “He’ll be out on the mantel because it’s Oscar weekend,” Bridges says. “He’ll be joining the family for the viewing party, for sure.”