At last Monday’s Oscar nominees luncheon, producers Donna Gigliotti and Glenn Weiss, issued a new rule (challenge? threat? Let’s go with threat) to the nominees: They will have 90 seconds total from the second the winner’s name is announced to get to the stage and complete their speech. Ruth. Less. To prove to everyone that it’s possible to give a great short speech, Gigliotti and Weiss played Steven Soderbergh‘s Best Director speech (watch above) for “Traffic” (2000) as the premier one to emulate. Which Soderbergh himself finds “hilarious” because, well, he was drunk when he gave it.
“I was like… ‘Oh, God,'” Soderbergh, who is currently promoting his Netflix film “High Flying Bird,” told our sister site IndieWire of when he got texts from friends about his speech being played. “It’s so hilarious to me that someone would point to that as an example of anything good. I wish I’d been in that room to give everybody some context of why that played out the way it did, and the aftermath when I walked off the stage.”
In his 55-second speech (not counting the time it took for him to get to the stage), Soderbergh eschewed rattling off a list of names to encourage people to create art. “There are a lot of people to thank. Rather than thank a few of them publicly, I think I’m going to thank all of them privately,” he said. “I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating.”
“I can tell you right now [executive producer] Graham King was not happy to not be thanked because if it were not for him that film doesn’t get made,” Soderbergh told IndieWire. (King is a nominee this year for producing Best Picture contender “Bohemian Rhapsody.”)
Names or no names, it is a coherent, lovely speech considering that Soderbergh was supposedly smashed. Nominated against himself for “Erin Brockovich,” meaning he could split his own vote, Soderbergh said he wasn’t expecting to win. Plus, Ang Lee had won the Golden Globe, BAFTA and Directors Guild of America Award for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and Ridley Scott had helmed the eventual Best Picture champ “Gladiator” (though Best Picture ended up being the only one of “Traffic”‘s five categories that it lost at the Oscars). So Soderbergh just spent the evening hitting up the bar.
“I was going under the assumption it was going to be not me, because that was the way it’d been playing out,” he said. “I was going to the [open bar] and I was having double vodka cranberries at every commercial break. I was lit. And because I knew I wasn’t going to have to get up there I had nothing prepared.”
Soderbergh points out that you can see a delayed reaction from him when he hears his name, and the ensuing speech was pure “desperation.” “And then of course there’s this huge adrenaline surge when you realize what’s happening,” he said. “[The mix of alcohol and adrenaline] was a very flammable mix of feelings.”
Maybe the secret to speech-giving is just like that old writing adage: write drunk, edit sober.
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