Soderbergh Defends Oscars Ending: Potential Boseman Win Too ‘Shattering’ to Put Elsewhere

"If [Boseman] were to win and his widow were to speak on his behalf, there would be nowhere to go after that," Soderbergh said.
Chadwick Boseman in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Chadwick Boseman in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

Steven Soderbergh joined the Los Angeles Times this week for an interview in which he shed some light on the controversial decision to end the 93rd Academy Awards with the announcement of the Best Actor category. Soderbergh produced the 2021 Oscars with Stacy Sher and Jesse Collins. Best Picture is traditionally the final category of the night, but Soderbergh said his team decided to change up the order in January before this year’s nominations were even announced.

“It’s our belief — that I think is not unfounded — that actors’ speeches tend to be more dramatic than producers’ speeches,” Soderbergh said, referring to how producers accept Best Picture and end the ceremony with their speech. “And so we thought it might be fun to mix it up, especially if people didn’t know that was coming. So that was always part of the plan.”

Soderbergh and his team doubled down on ending the 2021 Oscars with the Best Actor category once the nominations were announced and the late Chadwick Boseman was in the running. “When the nominations came out and there was even the possibility that Chadwick could win posthumously, our feeling was if he were to win and his widow were to speak on his behalf, there would be nowhere to go after that,” Soderbergh said. “So we stuck with it.”

Many viewers assumed the Oscars were banking on Boseman to win so the ceremony would end on an emotional high. When the winner was announced to be Anthony Hopkins, who was not allowed to make an acceptance speech because the producers banned Zoom feeds, the entire show ended abruptly. Backlash was instant, but Soderbergh said a potential Boseman win would have created a “shattering” moment that wouldn’t have fit anywhere but the end of the ceremony. The producer said he wasn’t banking on Boseman to win, just preparing for a chance he might since he was a nominee.

“I said if there was even the sliver of a chance that he would win and that his widow would speak, then we were operating under the fact that was the end of the show,” Soderbergh said. “So it wasn’t like we assumed it would, but if there was even a possibility that it would happen, then you have to account for that. That would have been such a shattering moment, that to come back after that would have been just impossible.”

The Oscars ended without a Boseman tribute, although Hopkins did post his own Best Actor acceptance speech to social media the morning after the ceremony and honored his late fellow nominee. When asked if the producing team would rethink their controversial decision to ban Zoom feeds, thus giving Hopkins the chance to appear during the broadcast, Soderbergh answered, “No.”

Head over to the Los Angeles Times’ website to read more from Soderbergh’s interview on the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony.

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