Hollywood’s starriest night paid tribute to both the year’s biggest winners and assorted achievements that had otherwise been overlooked by the annual awards show (mostly thanks to host Chris Rock, who didn’t balk at skewering the event’s lack of diversity throughout the evening in various ways, from the pointed to the hilarious). The night was punctuated by a flurry of wins for George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” (including a wham-bam series of below-the-line wins, along with a major best editing win) and some big love for features like best picture winner “Spotlight” and acting achievements of “Room” and “The Revenant,” and it sent awards season out on a very high note.
Indiewire was on hand for the show, including holding down a prime spot backstage, where all of the night’s winners happily made their way back to chat about their newest honor to a room filled with journalists eager to ask them for their thoughts on, well, just about everything. Below is a collection of some of the best quips, lines and insights from this year’s big Oscar winners.
Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Best Original Screenplay, “Spotlight”
The first award of the evening, bestowed on “Spotlight” co-writers Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, may not have been a huge surprise for anyone who had been closely observing the Oscars horse race, but it was still a satisfying start to the show.
For McCarthy and Singer, who won big the day before at the Indie Spirits, it was a fine continuation of a very successful new partnership. As Singer said when asked about his work with McCarthy: “Your words in your script, it’s never realized without an incredible director.”
The film, which went on to win best picture, has also renewed interest in the atrocities perpetuated by the Catholic church, far beyond just Boston. Earlier in the day, Singer and McCarthy joined a protest in downtown Los Angeles with members of the survivors’ network SNAP. “We were out protesting with probably a good 20, 30 SNAP folks. It was very fulfilling to stand there with them,” Singer said.
McCarthy echoed Singer’s sentiment, by saying that their work in the film was “more of a social calling than a job.”
When asked if the duo would be working together again soon, McCarthy joked, “You mean ‘Spotlight 2’?”
It was at that moment that a lighting cord fell loose behind the pair, and the filmmaker couldn’t help but quip, “That was the Catholic church, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the power of the Catholic church!”
Adam McKay, Best Adapted Screenplay, “The Big Short”
“The Big Short” director and co-writer Adam McKay didn’t hesitate to get topical during his acceptance speech for best adapted screenplay, and that continued backstage, where he was asked about his thoughts on Chris Rock’s opening monologue. “I thought it was great, I thought it was really great,” McKay said. “I thought it was jabbing at Hollywood, yet at the same time, even-handed, kind of dealing with like a new era of how we discuss diversity. Really impressive, and really funny!”
His co-writer, Charles Randolph, piped in with a hearty “agreed!”
Alicia Vikander, Best Supporting Actress, “The Danish Girl”
Closely cradling her newly earned hardware, Alicia Vikander looked nothing short of starry-eyed. When asked what she thought when they called her name, she said, “I’m still trying to remember anything that happened in the last five minutes!”
Vikander remembered her early years in the industry and still seemed a bit shocked by her big win. “This is a celebration of film and the people behind it, so I’m just really honored to be invited to be part of this tonight. To get this is just beyond anything I would ever imagine,” she said. “I never thought from back home that I would get to do films in English. I didn’t know that I could as a foreign actress. If I could continue to work, that would be great!”
Emmanuel Lubezki, Best Cinematography, “The Revenant”
For Chivo, his win marked a tremendous achievement, as the lauded cinematographer pulled in not just his third win, but his third win in a row. Still, Lubezki remained humble and eager to heap praise on the rest of the nominees in his category.
“The four other cinematographers that were sitting there with me are an important part of who I am. I’ve been admiring their work for many years,” he said. “I think they are the true masters. They are the real deal.”
Margaret Sixel, Best Editing, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Although it didn’t earn director George Miller a statuette and failed to pull off a major best picture upset, “Mad Max: Fury Road” was the big winner of the night, thanks to a stunning six Oscars. One of them went to editor Margaret Sixel, who was happy to rebuff any misunderstandings about the abilities of female editors in an action-heavy world. “I think there is some prejudice that women can’t cut action, but I am hoping that will change with the ‘Star Wars’ girls and me,” she said.
“I think it will change, I think it’s already changing,” she said. “You just watch in the next ten years, I think the balance will come back in our favor, hopefully.”
Sixel was continually asked about diversity in Hollywood and particularly in the editing room during her time backstage, but she ended it on an upbeat note: “Not all guys are bad.”
Mark Rylance, Best Supporting Actor, “Bridge of Spies”
One of the more shocking wins of the night went to Mark Rylance for his work in “Bridge of Spies.” The actor emerged victorious from a stacked best supporting actor category that included such heavy hitters as Mark Ruffalo, Sylvester Stallone and Tom Hardy, but despite pulling out the win, Rylance shared that he felt “like more of the spokesman” for the group, rather than the best of the bunch. He even called out other actors that he thought deserved to be nominated, including Idris Elba and Paul Dano.
As for the recent groundswell in talk about Hollywood’s need for diversity, much of it skewered by host Chris Rock, Rylance was hopeful. “I hope this will do a little bit more to change the story and diversify the stories that we listen to.”
But the grateful winner couldn’t hide his pleasure, telling the crowd, “It’s just nice to be celebrated, isn’t it? It’s very nice to be celebrated.”
Asif Kapadia, Best Documentary, “Amy”
Filmmaker already Asif Kapadia knew that his best documentary winner “Amy” was a success, not because of awards glory, but because of how it’s changed the way people feel about its very subject. “The perception of Amy has changed. A lot of people, particularly in the U.S., when I first met people and talked to them, [they viewed Amy] as a trainwreck,” Kapadia said. “Now, people think of her in a very different way. She was an amazing talent, she was beautiful, she was healthy, she had friends, people who cared for. There was so much more to her.”
He added, “Most people say they just wanted to give her a hug. They just wanted to give her some love.”
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Best Director, “The Revenant”
Much like his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski, director Alejandro Iñárritu was celebrating a big win just one year after another Oscar for best directing (only the third back-to-back win of its kind). When asked what that very special honor meant to him, he said, “I couldn’t be more happy. Every film is like a son. You can not like one son more than the other. I love this film as I love ‘Birdman.'”
For the filmmaker, grabbing an Oscar for his achievement was something he shared with the rest of his cast and crew, including his star and best actor winner Leonardo DiCaprio, who joined him backstage to chat with the press. “I think the award I am getting is on behalf of all of them and they made it possible,” he said. “I couldn’t be more happy.”
Brie Larson, Best Actress, “Room”
Indie darling Brie Larson’s journey to the Oscar stage was not an easy one, but the taxing emotional work she did on “Room” paid off for her both emotionally and professionally. “Who I was by the time [filming] the movie was over, was so far away from who I was when I started. It was a long process, of many different things of trying to find myself,” she said.
“The weird part is, I am standing here now, completely myself. Everything about this experience, down to the way I handled it, the way I felt about it, the dress that I am wearing, everything has been very pointedly about it being a representation of who I am. I feel really strong and excited to be holding this gold guy. But I do feel like it’s an incredible metaphor for how I feel inside,” the new winner added.
“It took me 20 years to be standing here, on this stage, but I wouldn’t want it any other way,” she said.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Best Actor, “The Revenant”
Asked to reflect on what his long-awaited win meant to him, best actor winner Leonardo DiCaprio was reflective. “I grew up in East Los Angeles, I was very close to the Hollywood studio system, but I felt detached from it my whole life,” he said. “To have parents that allowed me to be a part of this industry, to take me on auditions every day after school and to tell me stories like this, has been my dream ever since I was four years old.”
DiCaprio joined his director, Alejandro Iñárritu, backstage to celebrate the win, and the duo continued to express sincere gratitude for each other and their work. “This film was, to me, exemplary,” DiCaprio said. “This was true storytelling. This was a journey that I will never forget.”
The winner was also eager to talk about the importance of recognizing the impact of climate change on the world. “To me, this is the most existential crisis our civilization has ever known. I wanted to be able to speak out about that tonight,” DiCaprio said. “The time is now, and it is imperative that we act.”
He continued, “If you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in modern science or empirical truths and you will be on the wrong side of history, and we need to all join together and vote for leaders who care about the future and the civilization.”
Reflecting on a win that so many people pulled for, DiCaprio said, “It all feels incredibly surreal. We always strive for the best in what we do, but this year in particular, I’ve been overwhelmed with such support,” he said. “What can you say, except I’m really grateful. I really am.”