That off-key Oscars ending? Needed to be done, says producer Steven Soderbergh
From the moment it was announced that Steven Soderbergh would make this year’s Academy Awards, there was rumours as to just how much the unforeseen filmmaker would change up an event steeped in tradition.
Along with fellow producers Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins , Soderbergh approved the challenge of overseeing an Oscars telecast that adopted an extended awards season and centered on the contenders who seem to braved the uncertainty associated with opening in an unprecedented pandemic year. For the versatile movie director of both studio movies and independents, with credits including “Contagion, ” “Magic Mike” and “Let Them All Talk, ” it appeared like an ideal assignment.
Rather than the traditional clips and montages from the nominated films, audiences heard stories about how exactly nominees came to love the movies, their early jobs and also preferred in-theater snacks. Background was made throughout the show, including Chloé Zhao’s wins for director and best picture with “Nomadland, ” but what really got people talking was the producers’ decision to switch the order of the final awards of the night so best picture was revealed before the business lead acting categories. Many anticipated a dramatic and emotional ending, with the late Chadwick Boseman tipped to earn best actor for his role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, ” but the award went to Anthony Hopkins for “The Father” without the actor in attendance, and the evening shut on an unusual, unsettled note.
With the ratings for the broadcast at an all-time low of just over 10 million viewers, in line with other recent awards shows, it may well all have already been a losing battle from the beginning. On Monday, Soderbergh has been on a call along with Anja Marquardt, writer and director of the new season of Starz’s “The Girlfriend Experience, ” an anthology series he or she executive produces. Before delving further into that display — more from his conversation with Marquardt afterwards — Soderbergh answered a few questions about the Academy Awards.
Would you say that Oscars broadcast was the demonstrate planned for and anticipated?
Steven Soderbergh: Given what we can handle as the producers and what we can’t, yeah, it was completely what we imagined. But there are particular things that are immutable, like the number of awards that you have to give out and who’s going to win them.
Can you talk a little regarding the decision to change the purchase of the last few honours?
Which was something we were going to do well before the nominations came out — we talked about that within January. It’s our belief — that I think is not unfounded — that actors’ speeches tend to be more dramatic compared to producers’ speeches. And so we all 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. And then when the nominations arrived and there was even the chance that Chadwick could earn posthumously, our feeling was if he were to win and his widow were to speak on his behalf, there would be no place to go after that. So we stuck with it.
So is it fair to say you were anticipating that he might win?
I said if there was even the sliver of a prospect that he would win and that his widow would talk, then we were operating under the fact that was the end from the show. So it wasn’t want we assumed it would, but if there was even a possibility that it would happen, then you have to be aware of that. That would have been this kind of shattering moment, that to return after that would have been just impossible.
In hindsight, would you re-think the decision not to allow Zoom lens for anybody who couldn’t achieve the production sites?
Were you surprised by negative response to the lack of clips and montages ?
I wasn’t aware of that, ‘cause I don’t browse reviews. So if you’re telling me that’s the case, not really a lot I can do about that. You have to understand this show has been very much viewed by us and by the academy being an opportunity to try some really different stuff. And the knowing was always, there are going to be some things that function and some things that don’t, issues that people like, things that people don’t. That’s the point.
So the goal had been to really do something different and then let the academy sift through the reaction and decide what they would certainly do going forward. But I must say everybody — the particular academy, the network, everyone — was very supportive of all the creative moves that individuals made.
Would there be one thing you would hope that producers of a future show might take from what you do this year?
I like the stories. I love knowing more about the nominees. I think that grounds the industry in some sort of reality and makes it clear to people that the majority of the workers don’t come from L. A. and New York, don’t have connections to the amusement industry and that there is not a firewall between the cast and the crew, that everybody is very much working together. And that the experience of making a film is not siloed the way in which I think some people believe.