Back to IndieWire

Steven Soderbergh Surprised His Drunken Oscar Speech Is the Academy’s New Gold Standard

Soderbergh was unprepared, never thinking he'd win: "It's hilarious to me that someone would point to that as an example of anything good."


Steven Soderbergh at the 2001 Oscars

Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock

This year the Academy is determined to keep the Oscar broadcast down to a crisp three-hour show. Six below-the-line craft awards will be handed out during commercials, and winners are being warned they have only 90 seconds from the moment they are announced until they will be escorted off stage.

At the annual Oscar lunch, the show’s producer Donna Gigliotti screened Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 acceptance speech for Best Director (“Traffic”) as a model this year’s nominees should consider following while preparing for their potential big moment. In the speech, Soderbergh deferred thanking people who worked on the movie and instead paid tribute to the creative spirit.

“There are a lot of people to thank. Rather than thank a few of them publicly, I think I’m going to thank all of them privately,” said Soderbergh up on stage. “I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating.”

Soderbergh, who is in New York doing press for his new Netflix film “High Flying Bird” (opening tomorrow), found it amusing that his 2001 speech was singled out as the model.

“It’s so hilarious to me that someone would point to that as an example of anything good,” said Soderbergh in an interview with IndieWire. “I wish I’d been in that room to give everybody some context of why that played out the way it did, and the aftermath when I walked off the stage. I can tell you right now [executive producer] Graham King was not happy to not be thanked because if it were not for him that film doesn’t get made.”

In reality, Soderbergh says he was drunk and the speech was one made out of desperation of not being prepared. Having been a double Best Directing nominee, for both “Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich” — presumedly splitting his own vote — he was going up against heavy favorites Ridley Scott for “Gladiator” (the eventual Best Picture winner) and that year’s DGA winner Ang Lee for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

“I was going under the assumption it was going to be not me, because that was the way it’d been playing out,” said Soderbergh. “I was going to the [open bar] and I was having double vodka cranberries at every commercial break. I was lit. And because I knew I wasn’t going to have to get up there I had nothing prepared.”

Soderbergh shooting "High Flying Bird"

Soderbergh shooting “High Flying Bird”


Soderbergh said the alcohol mixed with the utter shock of hearing his name paralyzed him.

“You can see, if you look at my reaction, there’s a real delay of me like, ‘Wait, what? Did I just…?'” said Soderbergh. “And then of course there’s this huge adrenaline surge when you realize what’s happening and so I was — you know, that [speech] was desperation. [The mix of alcohol and adrenaline] was a very flammable mix of feelings.”

Soderbergh joked that he received texts from friends at this week’s Oscar lunch about his speech being shown: “I was like… Oh, God.”

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox