Let’s be honest; we’ve all imagined how our Oscar speech would go, (personally I am thanking everyone I know under the sun and I am going to wear flat shoes to avoid tripping up). But, is there a right or wrong way to give an Oscar speech? And, what makes a speech memorable and stick in people’s minds for the right (or for the wrong reasons).
Well, after much research, I have worked out the formula for the best Oscar speech. So, hopefully this will be a guide for all those future Oscar Winners to refer back to (you can thank me in your speech, along with your parents, your agent and your dog.)
Practice your reaction shot
Don’t get caught off guard, when your name is called. Ideally; make sure you are in your seat and have not nipped out to the bathroom. Try your best to look moderately surprised, as being modest is a virtue. Smile, when your name is mentioned and make sure you clap along with the crowd as the other names are called out. It is best to pay attention when they announce the winner, as you don’t want to make a fool of yourself, and stand up when you think you’ve won.
Once your name is called, do make sure to hug and kiss whoever you’re sat next to (ideally you know this person and you have their prior consent). If you haven’t won, try to not let your anger / disappointment / bitterness show on your face, swallow that sadness down and keep smiling (there’ll be plenty of booze later to drown your sorrows). The tip here is to look as genuinely surprised and shocked. Meryl Streep is a pro at the reaction shot.
Practice getting to the stage
Walking up to accept your Oscar doesn’t have to be boring! Make it fun and different. Roberto Benigni certainly did when he accepted his Oscars for Life is Beautiful. Standing up in the aisle, Benigni thanked as many people he could find, running up to the top of the aisle before coming back towards the stage, stopping to thank various people. Full of energy and wearing a huge grin on his face, Benigni bounces up the stairs to stage. It is hard not to feel moved by his reaction and he went on to give a funny, touching speech.
Another memorable walk up to the stage, occurred when Jennifer Lawrence accidentally tripped when she went to accept her award in 2013 for The Silver Linings Playbook. Rather than allow that moment to faze her, Lawrence got up and continued with her speech, making a joke about what happened (”You Guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell”) and laughing it off. So, should you trip when you make your way to the stage; just get back up and don’t let it ruin your night.
Remember to thank the right people
Ah yes, the list of people you must thank… Who do you include? Well, it’s best to thank the people you worked with on the film; which would be the director, and your fellow actors, try your hardest not to forget anyone important. It is always good to mention the producers and your agent, especially if they fought to get your that role. Don’t forget to thank your family, including your parents, your partner and your children.
Don’t feel that you need to thank everyone (the milkman, the dogwalker, and the Uber driver who took you to the ceremony – you can do that afterwards). And yes, while Sally Field’s speech has been somewhat mocked now; there’s no denying her gratitude to the academy for voting for her. “I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!”
Don’t be afraid to be funny
Matthew McConaughey gave the right balance of humour in his speech, and drew on his catchphrase “Alright, Alright, Alright” to garner some laughs. Comedy helps break the ice. However, it’s best not go overboard because not everyone is going to be on the same level as you and won’t necessarily laugh at your jokes. There’s nothing worse than a joke bombing.
A catchphrase could be a nice touch, or it could fall flat like James Cameron’s ”I am the King of the World” statement. It’s all about judging the room and knowing when to be funny or when to behave yourself.
Don’t go on and on and on
Of course I had to mention Gwyneth Paltrow’s speech. Poor Gwyneth was a wreck when she went up on stage, gasping and unable to find the right words. The speech is painful to watch because Paltrow seems like she’s about to burst in tears or a song.
However, knowing what we know now, it’s no wonder that Paltrow was a mess and who can blame her. She was most likely exhausted, emotionally drained and suffering trauma; so we can excuse her for her performance on the stage.
Be bold and make a statement
After being the first African-American actress to win the best actress, Halle Berry ended up giving one of the best Oscars speeches of all time. “This moment is so much bigger than me,” she said. “This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me: Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” Such a profound and beautiful statement, it is hard not to be moved by Berry’s words.
Of course, I will have to mention the incident with Sacheen Littlefeather who came to accept Marlon Brando’s Oscar. Marlon Brando said he refused to attend the ceremony because of the “treatment of Native Americans today in the film industry”. Received by both booing and clapping, the acceptance speech, originally 15 pages, would go on to be one of the most controversial of all time. If this happened today, one can only imagine the reaction by Film Twitter.
Sometimes just short and sweet is the answer
Joe Pesci took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in GoodFellas, his speech was only six words long: “It was my privilege. Thank you.”
Pesci isn’t the only one to give short and quick speeches. When he won Best Actor for Stalag 17, William Holden offered his thanks with a simple, “Thank you. Thank you.”
Gloria Grahame, quickly said ”Thank you very much” barely pausing at the microphone.
Patty Duke simply said, ”Thank you.” when she won for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Miracle Worker. So, maybe you could simply give a good old ”Thanks” and quickly sit down before someone steals your seat!