Backstage at the Oscars: The view from stage right

Helen Mirren, left, congratulates lead actress winner Frances McDormand after the close of the 90th Oscars -- with the prize jet-powered ski in the background and "The Shape of Water" star Doug Jones on the right.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Backstage at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday, everyone has to wait in line for the bathroom. And there aren’t too many of them: Just two, unisex, and they’re shared by both stars and production staffers.

With 20 minutes to go before showtime, a line had already formed, including Christopher Walken and Frances McDormand in the queue. After a few moments, Eva Marie Saint emerged from one of the stalls, horrified to see how many people were waiting in line. “Oh, I’m sorry! I was fixing my hair. Forgive me,” the 93-year-old apologized to the small group.

That’s just one of the moments we caught from our spot backstage at the Oscars.


4:50 p.m. With 10 minutes to go before showtime, Jimmy Kimmel emerged from his dressing room, where dozens of staffers outfitted in black awaited him. One launched into a spontaneous chant: “Best show ever. Best show ever.” It rang through the halls and continued as Kimmel walked toward the stage. Also following behind him? Kelly Ripa and Helen Mirren, who emerged from the elevator leading to the backstage area just as the chant was in full swing. “Dame Helen Mirren is here. Let’s have a little respect, for Christ’s sake,” Ripa kidded. The talk show host had a prime spot backstage, interviewing celebs after the winners. She was conducting interviews for her talk show without her co-host, Ryan Seacrest.

Jimmy Kimmel speaks onstage during the telecast of the 90th Academy Awards on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times )

5:10 p.m. During Kimmel’s monologue, dozens of production staffers and trophy presenters crowded around a monitor to watch the host. Viola Davis, ready to head out to present the supporting actor Oscar, stood closest to the screen — and laughed for a solid 30 seconds at Kimmel’s gag about agents being untrustworthy. Meanwhile, more than 50 polished Oscar statuettes stood resting in a trophy case just offstage. They were to be touched only by a white gloved guard, who sat directly next to the statues. Mirren, exiting the stage after her stunt involving a jet-powered ski, was excited to see all the glittering statues. “Hi,” she waved to them, as if they were old friends. She only looked, but did not touch.

5:24 p.m. The first person Sam Rockwell saw when he walked offstage after winning supporting actor was his publicist, Liz Mahoney, who engulfed him in a huge hug. When the actor noticed all the cameras, he was stunned. “Go get your … picture taken,” Mahoney advised. Rockwell posed for a moment before spotting producer Jen Todd, one of his old friends. “That was great, right?” he asked. “I went long, but that’s fine?” “That’s fine,” she assured him.

5:37 p.m. Greta Gerwig was having her makeup touched up — “I did you on ‘No Strings Attached,’” the makeup artist reminded the actress — when Laura Dern arrived backstage. The two were presenting documentary feature together, and Gerwig was jittery with excitement. “I can’t breathe in,” she said with a smile. “I know,” Dern said. “I wish I didn’t wear eyeglasses.” “When we walk out, should we hold hands?” Dern asked Gerwig. “I think arm-in-arm is awkward.” She noticed a clutch of reporters observing the actresses’ conversation and asked for advice. “Holding hands? That’s cute, right?” “We crowdsourced it!” Gerwig said. Just as they made their decision, an accountant from PricewaterhouseCoopers handed Dern the envelope. “Can you confirm that this is for documentary feature?” the accountant asked the actress. Because we aren’t playing around with those envelopes this year, y’all.

5:48 p.m. Backstage, most of the action happened right off stage right, where the monitors were housed, the trophies were held and the presenters got touched up. This was a crowded space, and it was closed off by a door from a main hallway where there was a lot less action. So when things got too crowded in the wings — right after the fourth award — a production staffer insisted the press exit the area and stay in the less-happening hallway. Stay tuned.

6:30 p.m. Ripa is the only broadcast journalist backstage, and she’s set up with a display to entice talent: Cupcakes and vodka shots. Gina Rodriguez, who had been hanging in the green room with her boyfriend, emerged to do a shot with the talk show host. “Mmm,” she said after downing it in front of the cameras. “Feels right.”

Tiffany Haddish, left, and Maya Rudolph backstage before presenting at the 90th Academy Awards.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

7:05 p.m. Tiffany Haddish walked backstage clutching a glass of white wine. “Hold that for me,” she said, looking at me as she put it down on the table. “I’m coming back for that, OK?” The actress was radiating with excitement before presenting with Maya Rudolph, spontaneously erupting into song. “I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it.” “No, no, no!” Rudolph chimed in, making it a duet. Both actresses were walking onstage without their heels for a bit — and Haddish advised the production crew not to zoom in on her feet. “Then the foot fetish people be like, ‘She got a bunion! I’m all into that corn.’”

7:19 p.m. Haddish came back to retrieve her wine, as promised. “You didn’t let anybody Bill Cosby it, did you? Good, good, good!”

7:26 p.m. Tarana Burke, who launched the #MeToo movement, came offstage in a flood of tears after being a part of the “Stand Up for Something” musical performance. She spotted Annabella Sciorra, who was in the midst of a tight huddle with fellow presenters Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek. Sciorra broke the handshake to embrace Burke as they both got emotional. “I love you so much. So much,” Sciorra said. “I’m so glad you’re here,” Burke replied.

7:36 p.m. The crowd in the backstage wings erupted when Jordan Peele won his screenwriting award, but it was “Greatest Showman” star Keala Settle who was most excited for him. “Yes. Yesssss. Y-y-y-es,” she shouted as he was making his acceptance speech. As he exited the stage, she pumped her fist in his direction. “Bro. BROOOO.”

7:55 p.m. “Yes, mother...s!!!!!!” Settle shouted after emerging from her performance. After taking a few moments to catch her breath, she looked at a stagehand. “Um, can I go?” On her way out, production staffers kept stopping her to congratulate her on her performance. “Man, you guys are nice.”

8:30 p.m. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were waiting in the wings before their encore presentation of best picture, and Dunaway seemed nervous. She noticed a camera snapping photos in her direction and became distressed. Even though the photographer said he was not taking her pictures, she shooed him away. “I don’t want anyone near me. What can we do about all these cameras?”

While pacing and reading her lines over and over, she paused to watch the lead actress reel, and exclaimed excitedly when Laurie Metcalf popped up on-screen in the “Lady Bird” clip. “I love her. She was amazing in ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2.’”

Beatty sipped a Diet Coke and seemed more relaxed. “What’s in that? Is that really Coke?” He laughed a bit and stood to get touched up. “Don’t go crazy here. I don’t want a lot,” he advised the makeup artist.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty present the best picture Oscar to "Shape of Water" director and producer Guillermo del Toro.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times )

8:47 p.m. The accountant was watching the monitor closely as “The Shape of Water” was announced, shaking her head in the affirmative. “Awesome, awesome show,” the stage manager said, embracing her as she let out a huge sigh of relief.

8:53 p.m. After the show wrapped, the “Shape of Water” crew reveled under the glittering set. Sally Hawkins, wiping tears out of her eyes, looked down at her dress and realized that she had left a pool of sequins to her right. “I’m shedding scales,” she said with a laugh.

9:03 p.m. “That was a nice touch, having Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty come back. That was hilarious,” “Shape of Water” costar Doug Jones said, standing in a circle with castmates Michael Stuhlbarg and Richard Jenkins.

9:04 p.m. Dunaway and Beatty, meanwhile, were reveling in the fact that they’d had no envelope mishap this year. “Great job, thank you,” the accountant who’d handed them their envelope said. “Really, thank you very much. We appreciate it.”