Steven Spielberg has officially weighed in on the backlash to the 94th Academy Awards pre-recording eight category wins.
The “West Side Story” director told Deadline that the awards for documentary short, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live-action short, and sound should be aired live during the March 27 Oscars ceremony.
“I disagree with the decision made by the executive committee,” Spielberg said. “I feel very strongly that this is perhaps the most collaborative medium in the world. All of us make movies together, we become a family where one craft is just as indispensable as the next. I feel that at the Academy Awards there is no above the line, there is no below the line. All of us are on the same line bringing the best of us to tell the best stories we possibly can. And that means, for me, we should all have a seat at the supper table together live at five.”
“West Side Story” is nominated for seven Oscars, including production design, cinematography, costume design, and sound (all categories that would be announced prior to the 5 p.m. start time) as well as Best Picture and Best Director for Spielberg.
The 19-time Oscar nominee explained the importance of crafts categories, adding, “When I look back and I think without John Williams, ‘Jaws’ would wear dentures. With ‘West Side Story,’ when Tony is singing ‘Tonight’ with Maria, without [production designer] Adam Stockhausen, he would be singing it on a step ladder and she would be on the scaffolding, all this on an empty soundstage. Without film editing, all my movies would still be in dailies. We all come together to make magic, and I am sad that we will all not be on live television watching magic happen together.”
Spielberg continued, “Everybody will have their moment in the limelight. All the winners will be able to be shown with their acceptance speeches, but it’s the idea that we can’t all be there.”
Academy president David Rubin announced February 22 via email that eight selected categories would be pre-recorded ahead of the live ceremony from the Dolby Theatre, with the rationale being “to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic, and relevant. Rubin emphasized that “all the nominees in ALL awards categories will be identified on-air and ALL winners’ acceptance speeches will be featured on the live broadcast. Every awarded filmmaker and artist in every category will still have the celebratory ‘Oscar moment’ they deserve on the stage of the Dolby, facing an enrapt audience.”
Spielberg said that while he has “tremendous respect for my fellow Governors” and Rubin, he hopes the 2022 Oscars will turn out differently.
“The same thing came close to happening three years ago and at the 11th hour a decision was made that reversed it and four categories that were in the commercial breaks were reinstated on the live show,” Spielberg said, citing the 2019 effort to boost ratings with cinematography, editing, make-up and hairstyling, and live action short were slated to be cut from the broadcast. The Academy reversed its decision after the cinematography community especially voiced their disapproval.
“I hope it’s reversed, but I’m not anticipating a reversal and I am not optimistic about it,” Spielberg said.
Fellow directors Denis Villeneuve and Jane Campion also voiced their respective criticisms over the Academy’s decision. “Dune” director Villeneuve called it a “mistake,” while Oscar-nominated “Power of the Dog” director Campion said “it’s hard for any directors to understand that choice” by the Academy.
Will Packer, who is producing this year’s Oscars, recently defended the strategy by saying “nobody is going to be shortchanged by this decision to try to make the show more efficient, expedited, and make more people watch the show.”