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Oscars: Tales from the backstage press room

Following my attendance of the Oscar nominations announcement in January, I successfully gained accreditation for the Oscars backstage press room, which is where the winners go after they've had their photo taken to answer questions from the global and domestic press. Here is how my evening went down, in Los Angeles time.

4.48pm: I arrive at the centre of Hollywood, where several blocks have been cordoned off, creating traffic chaos. On my way to the Dolby Theatre, a homeless woman screams an aggressive "Namaste!" at me, then remarks that I look handsome in my tuxedo. It is a welcome confidence boost. I pass through a tightly controlled checkpoint, which cannot help recall multiple Oscar nominee Bridge of Spies.

4.56pm: I take my allocated seat among 300 or so well-dressed journalists. It is time to survey the insane amounts of food on offer.

There is chicken and penne, empanadas, beef skewers, shrimp, and bow-tie pasta. Appropriate.

5.13pm: A man at the front of the room does a final sound check for the radio and TV broadcasters present. He also recommends we try the shrimp.

5.35pm: The show gets under way, and plays out on various flat screens spread throughout the press room. Chris Rock's opening monologue is well-received.

5.49pm: We get our first sight of the 'thank-yous' that crawl across the bottom of the screen when Spotlight wins Best Original Screenplay. I find them distracting, but nobody else seems particularly bothered by them. "They just won an Oscar, they should be able to say what they want," remarks the American journalist sitting next to me.

Spotlight took out the Best Original Screenplay category.
Spotlight took out the Best Original Screenplay category. Kerry Hayes

6.04pm: Spotlight's Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer arrive at the press room. While discussing the win, the power cord from an actual spotlight behind above them falls, but stops short of hitting them, creating a truly odd moment.

"That was the Catholic Church, ladies and gentlemen," jokes McCarthy. "That is the power of the Catholic Church. Thank God we're protected by the Oscars."

6.12pm: Best Adapted Screenplay winners (for The Big Short) Adam McKay and Charles Randolph arrive and comedy legend McKay (who directed Anchorman and Step Brothers) is asked his opinion on Rock's monologue.

"I thought it was really great," says McKay. "I thought it was jabbing at Hollywood yet at the same time evenhanded and kind of dealing with like a new era of sort of how we discuss diversity. I thought it was very evenhanded, and really impressive and really funny."

6.24pm: Back in the ceremony, Mad Max: Fury Road kicks off its six-Oscar run by winning Best Production Design. Co-winner Colin Gibson endears himself by mentioning New Zealand in his speech.

6.29pm: Best Supporting Actress winner Alicia Vikander arrives at the press room with tears in her eyes. The tiny Swede speaks of watching the ceremony as a kid.

Alicia Vikander won Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Danish Girl.
Alicia Vikander won Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Danish Girl. BANG Showbiz

"This night every year I woke up and set the alarm clock at 2am to watch." Bless.

6.44pm: The hugely charming Best Costume Design winner Jenny Beavan arrives in the press room, and a reporter from the Los Angeles Times compliments her on her leather jacket and jeans outfit.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm really dressed up," she says. "I really don't do frocks, and I absolutely don't do heels. I simply can't wear them. And this was an homage to Mad Max. And also for my friends at Peta, the People's Ethical Treatment of Animals, fake, not leather."

6.53pm: Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson, the Fury Road production designers, arrive backstage and Gibson further endears himself when a reporter asks them if other action movies could benefit from a feminist angle.

"Hopefully our next one," says Gibson. "But if Michael Bay is listening, I'm yet to see a decent, you know, one of those Transformers with tits, so, you know. Yet to see a Transformer with tits."

7.10pm: The Revenant's cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is discussing winning his third Oscar in a row, but he can tell that the attendant journalists (about half of whom are listening to a feed of the ceremony) are distracted, and wants to know what by. It is the Girl Scout cookie bit.

7.14pm: Best Film Editing winner Margret Sixel praises Mad Max: Fury Road's commitment to gender diversity.

"You know, in our cutting room we did pay attention to it, and my post supervisor, Matt, who is an amazing post supervisor, he did make an effort to hire women so, you know, not all guys are bad."

7.18pm: The Mad Max: Fury Road sound editors arrive backstage. The endless stream of awards for the action epic is starting to resemble Return of the King's run the 2004 ceremony. The Australian journalists in the room can barely contain themselves.

Mad Max made the sweep of the night at the Oscars.
Mad Max made the sweep of the night at the Oscars.

7.25pm: The sound-mixing winners arrive backstage and are forced to correct a journalist who refers to them as the winners of "sound editing". Imagine.

7.30pm: When Mark Rylance's name is read out as Best Supporting Actor winner, there is a huge gasp in the room. We all feel bad for Sly.

7.35pm: Ex-Machina's Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett - the winners for Best Visual Effects, arrive backstage. Bennett is the first female nominee in the category for 23 years, and is asked what needs to be done to open the field to women.

"I'm lucky enough I was a co-founder of the company in London called Milk Visual Effects," says Bennett. "So as a manager it makes it easy for me I guess because no, it's not easy. Let's say two people come knocking, a man and woman come for the same job, they had about the same talent, I'd pick the female and get more women in basically, just so it will make the ratio more even. There's a lot of brilliant women doing what I do in our industry. It just so happens you get picked, if you're nominated for an Oscar or a Bafta, but there's a lot of women doing it already. So we just need more, I guess."

7.50pm: Inside Out co-directors Peter Docter and Jonas Rivera hit the press room. Both men are asked to name their personal highlight of Inside Out's success.

"I'm a huge fan of NWA and Ice Cube," says Rivera. "And we were lucky enough, this is so name-droppy, but here we are, we were lucky enough to sit next to them, the Straight Outta Compton table at one of these things and I got to meet Ice Cube, and I introduced myself as a producer of Inside Out not knowing what I'd get, and he said, 'Oh, man, that movie's dope'. That was a pretty good moment for me."

Docter adds: "I've gotten a letter from a woman who said her daughter who had special needs was able to talk for the first time about how she felt thanks to this film, and that was amazing."

"That makes mine seem even more name-droppy," laughs Rivera.

8.00pm: Rylance arrives in the press room and his charming low-key humility helps me cope with the fact that he took out Rocky.

8.25pm: Sacha Baron Cohen's presenting bit kills, and we learn we won't be getting access to any more winners until the ceremony is finished.

8.55pm: The press room erupts in applause when Leo wins.

9.12pm: The ceremony ends and Rock signs off with Brooklyn!

9.21pm: Best Original Song winners Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes arrive. In his acceptance speech, Smith speculated that he might've been the first openly gay Oscar-winner, but a reporter informs him that he isn't.

"Shit. F*** that," laughs Smith. "Two is my lucky number, so it's all good. Who was the other person? I should know him. We should date."

In regards to his svelte appearance, Smith has this to say: "I have been eating the most boring food you can imagine for months now, and I'm going to destroy some burgers and chocolate cakes in a second and some beer. You have no idea."

9.38pm: Best Director Alejandro Inarritu arrives with Leo, who insists on joining him for his press room interview. They both receive big applause and proceed to charm the room. Leo can't stop fidgeting with his newly acquired Oscar, twirling it by his side.

"It all feels incredibly surreal," DiCaprio says of the public investment in him finally winning an Oscar. "You know, it's surreal because you can't reach out and physically meet everybody. You hear it on the internet, you hear it from other people, and, you know, the truth is, we always strive for the best in what we do. But this year in particular, I've been overwhelmed with such support. Really, truly, by so many fans and so many people in the industry. It's quite shocking, actually. And what can you say except I'm very grateful, I really am."

9.58pm: Best Actress winner Brie Larson arrives backstage and talks about the times in her career when she's had to stand up for herself.

"There were many times that I would go into auditions and casting directors would say, 'It's really great. Really love what you're doing, but we'd love for you to come back in a jean miniskirt and high heels," and those were always moments of a real fork in the road, because I had no there's no reason for me to show up in a jean miniskirt and heels other than the fact that you want to create some fantasy. And so for me, I personally always rejected that moment. I tried maybe once, and it always made me feel terrible because they were asking me to wear a jean miniskirt and heels to be sexy, but a jean miniskirt and heels does not make me feel sexy. It makes me feel uncomfortable. So learning for me what it took to feel confident, and strong, and take what these people were trying to get to exude out of me come from a personal place, and from my place, and trying to represent in film women that I know, women that I understand, complicated women, women that are inside of me, that became my mission. And every time I was put in front of an opportunity where I had to decide in those moments - 'Do I or do I not wear a jean miniskirt?' They became huge moments for me of confidence."

10.07pm: The four producers of Best Picture winner Spotlight arrive backstage. They clearly realise their win was something of an upset, and are asked to theorise as to why it came away with the top prize.

"I think this is a huge testament to the Academy," says Blye Pagon Faust. "Its members recognised the global import of this, of our film, the impact that it's having and continuing to have. And I think that that speaks volumes to this filmmaking community and to the power of film."

10.18pm: My night at the Oscars is over. I forgot to try the shrimp.

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