The 85th annual Academy Awards took place on Feb. 24, 2013, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Here is what these Oscar winners said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.
BEN AFFLECK, GEORGE CLOONEY and GRANT HESLOV
Ben, obviously you put a lot of work in “Argo” as you were making it, but then after it’s taken on this life of its own in your story; it’s been so tied to your personal journey. Did you think that was something that was going to come out of making this film, this sort of redemptive comeback story that’s been part of the narrative here?
Affleck: I was excited about making the movie. These guys had a script, I really liked it, I called them up, and said, “Will you put me on the movie?” And I wanted to do the movie and I wanted to work with them. That’s what I thought would happen.
I wanted to work on some quality. I did the movie, we all worked really hard, I hoped that people would like it. I didn’t think it had a more meta approach to it than that. I was excited to make it, I was excited to work with these guys and the cast we had, and I was willing to let the chips kind of fall where they may, as long as we thought we did something we were interested in.
At certain points, we thought that other films might win Best Picture this year. Could you describe when exactly you felt a tipping point in your favor?
Clooney: Michelle Obama.
Affleck: When they gave us the trophies, I was confident that we would win.
Clooney: I’m completely confident.
Affleck: I didn’t second guess. Is this a prank?
Clooney: He did look at the envelope.
Heslov: Even as I was giving the speech, I didn’t think we could win.
Affleck: Once Grant let me talk, I felt good. I didn’t get too much into the Oscar-ology and the pontificating. And the guys who do that stuff and report on it, which is great, and people like it and they’re interested in it. And I hope people are interested in the Oscars because it helps our industry and helps make better films, but it doesn’t help me to read up on that stuff. So I was thrilled for Billy, I was thrilled for Chris, and when it came along, I was thrilled for these two guys.
Can all three of you attend an American Foreign Service Association plaque ceremony that in the Department of State on May 3, 2013, when fallen Foreign Service officers are honored?
Clooney: That’s really a personal question.
Affleck: Do I call you or just …
Heslov: I’m able to, yes.
Clooney: There’s a line. There’s Ben.
Affleck: I don’t know that we can come, but we do have, all of us, a tremendous respect for what the Foreign Service sacrifices and goes through and that we, I think, gained further appreciation for that as we shot the movie and visited the State Department. I know Secretary [Hillary] Clinton a little bit and Secretary [John] Kerry a little bit better, so we were able to shoot in the … I’m not sure that that’s why, but from my sort of distant acquaintanceship with both of those Secretaries, I’ve really picked up an appreciation for what the State Department does, what our Foreign Service does, what they sacrifice.
Clooney: Grant and I will be in Berlin shooting so we won’t make it, but maybe Ben might be in town.
Affleck: Thanks, George.
How cool was it to have the first lady Michelle Obama announce that you had just won an Oscar?
Affleck: I was sort of hallucinating when that was happening. In the course of hallucination, it doesn’t you know what I mean? It doesn’t seem that odd when some other oh look, a purple elephant, you know, Michelle Obama. But it’s natural because the whole thing is so unnatural.
Honestly, I was just asking these two guys outside, “Was that Michelle Obama?” The whole thing kind of alarmed me at the time, but in retrospect, the fact that it was the first lady was an enormous honor and the fact that she surrounded herself by service men and women was special and I thought appropriate. Anyway, it was very cool.
Heslov: And I’m a big fan of the bangs.
Ben, throughout the awards season you’ve been very humble about what we feel.
Affleck: Yeah, forget that. No more humility.
Being left off the Best Director nominations for this year’s Oscars, and through that, how has that changed with all of the recognition that you’ve received and where are you with that now?
Heslov: I wasn’t aware you were left off. Were you left off?
Affleck: I didn’t get nominated as a director.
Clooney: I wasn’t nominated as an actor in a movie.
Affleck: No sh*t. That’s a crime, folks. Honestly, you know how I feel about that? Naturally I was disappointed, and a lot of people said this is something that’s going to happen. But when I look at the directors who were people who weren’t nominated as well: Paul Thomas Anderson and Kathryn Bigelow — just amazing — Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino, these are all directors who I admire enormously. So it was a very tough year.
Clooney: You were in good company not to be nominated.
Affleck: Exactly. I was on the bench.
Heslov: You’re glad you weren’t nominated. Affleck: You know what, you’re not entitled to anything. I’m honored to be here. I’m honored to be among these extraordinary movies, and I’m really, really honored to win an Academy Award. I’ve not spent a lot of time second-guessing or worried about it.
Ben, do you have any reflection at this point about making films about true-life events? In “Argo,” you mentioned President Jimmy Carter and the politics that were involved there, yet the film drew a little bit of flack for some of its treatments of New Zealanders and blending characters and the scene in the airport runway at the end. Do you have any thoughts about how to approach these things now?
Affleck: Let me start by saying I love New Zealand and I love New Zealanders. And I’m tempted to end there. I think that it’s tricky, you walk a fine line. You do a historical movie, naturally you have to make some creative choices about how you’re going to condense it into a three act structure. It’s not an easy thing to do. You try to honor the truth of the essence, the sort of basic truth of the story that you’re telling.
You know, I’m really proud of the movie, I’m proud of the people that worked on the movie, the story that we were telling was true and that we told was true. It’s not an easy thing, but it’s, I think, constructed as well as it could possibly be. But the complete credit goes to [“Argo” screenwriter] Chris Terrio rather than me.
For more info: Academy Awards website
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