Quick, name the 10 most memorable Oscar acceptances speeches ever given, not including Sally Field’s iconic “You like me” speech.
I suspect that your Top 10 list has fallen about 10 speeches short.
Oh, you remember a few incidents surrounding Oscar speeches, like that cute Italian guy leaping over the backs of the seats to get to the stage, or Adrien Brody planting a wet one on Halle Berry, but not the speeches themselves.
It’s not your fault. These speeches simply are not memorable, even though the winners have been practicing in front of a mirror since they were 8 years old.
But there is a big difference between giving a speech in front of an appreciative audience of one, and giving a speech in front of an indifferent audience of millions.
When the big moment comes, nerves and excitement overtake all the practice, and the winners dissolve into a gooey mess. Those who manage to maintain their cool are smart enough to avoid the pitfalls that come with excessive ego or vindictiveness.
Just once, we’d like to hear an Oscar acceptance speech that goes something like this:
“I would like to thank the academy, but not all the academy.
“There are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences I really want to thank. They are the people who voted for me. The rest of you can drop dead.
“Where were you when I really needed the support? Where were you when I was a young actor being rejected at auditions every day and working as a waiter at nights until I couldn’t stand anymore? I was sleeping on my buddy’s sofa, and sneaking into buffets with friends and eating off their plates. I had to go to auditions in the same clothes I wore the day before because I didn’t have extra outfits, and couldn’t afford dry cleaning.
“Which brings me to the world-famous fashion designers who have dressed me tonight. I would like to thank you for sending free clothes to my home, but I could really have used the free clothes when I was broke. I am making plenty of money now, and I don’t need your stupid clothes, but I’m told that I have to wear the clothes or Joan Rivers will rip me to shreds before I’m off the red carpet.
“I want to thank my manager for sticking with me through the lean times, but my big-shot agent only signed me after a small film I did made a big splash at Sundance. Before that, he wouldn’t even return my phone calls. Now, he would take a bullet for me. I wish he would.
“At this point in my acceptance speech, I’m supposed to thank the studio that made this movie. It’s the smart way to go because you never want to insult a big studio. But this is the same studio that passed on me for 20 other roles. They told my agent I wasn’t right for the part, which means I wasn’t attractive enough, or tall enough or short enough or thin enough or fat enough.
“Just because conventional wisdom says that rejection is part of this business doesn’t mean we have to like it. Nobody likes to be rejected, and just because there is a thin promise of fame and riches at the end the rainbow doesn’t mean we have to put up with this abuse. Most actors aren’t rich or famous, and never will be, and so I see no reason why we can’t be treated with some dignity.
“I’m also supposed to thank the director of this movie because film is a director’s medium, and it isn’t smart to insult directors. Well, this is the same director who regularly seduces his leading ladies, and everybody knows it. In another profession, he would be called a predator.
“I want to thank my fellow nominees. Winners never had to thank their fellow nominees. It was understood that the winner got everything, and the losers got shown losing on national television. That’s how the game was played, but now it is politically correct to not only acknowledge your fellow nominees, but say how honored you are just to be in their company.
“And, of course, I have to thank the other actors in my movie, even though some of them came to the set late every day because they were out drinking all night.
“I would thank the writers but it’s customary to pretend that the words magically appear on the page, or that the director wrote the movie, so who am I to buck tradition?
“Finally, I want to thank the fans. I would be nothing without the fans. That’s what I was told to say, and I suppose there is some truth to that. But these are the same fans who ignored my movie when it came out, and went instead to see a movie starring Nicolas Cage as a flaming head.”