17 Things You Didn’t Know About the Oscars
On February 24, hundreds of millions of viewers in more than 90 countries will tune in to watch the movie industry’s most glittering stars put on the glitz and a select few take home Tinseltown’s top prize: the Oscar. Here’s a look at what the Oscars are all about.
1. Oscars mean big bucks for winners.
“Oscar winner.” It’s a label that means success, fame and, yes, riches. Nabbing a Best Picture Oscar generally guarantees a film an extra $20-$50 million US in ticket sales. Titanic earned a further $100 million US. According to Variety, a win in any major category will boost a film’s revenues—on average—by $11 million US.
Anyone who wins a Best Actor or Actress award is instantly promoted to the “A-List” and can exponentially increase their acting fee. It’s rumoured that Hilary Swank upped her asking price from $1-million to $8-million US a picture after winning Best Actress—her second—in 2005 for the aptly named Million Dollar Baby.
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2. There used to be a five-film cap on Best Picture nominees.
In 2010, the Academy allowed 10 movies to be nominated for Best Picture, instead of the traditional five. Animated films, comedies and smaller independent films now stand a better chance of being nominated. The change may also have been motivated by viewing figures, in the thinking that more film fans will tune in hoping to see their favourite movie win. (In fact, one of the largest US audiences in Oscars history was in 1998, when 52.2 million people watched Titanic win Best Picture.) This year, eight films are nominated for the award.
3. 300 limousines are reserved for each year’s show.
4. Michael Jackson paid $1.54 million US in 1999 to Sotheby’s for David Selznick’s Best Picture Oscar for the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind.
5. Three films have tied for winning 11 awards, the most ever: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Titanic (1997) and Ben Hur (1959).
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6. The late Peter O’ Toole holds the record for being nominated for Best Actor—eight times—and never winning.
7. Walt Disney holds the record for more Academy Award nominations (59!) than any other individual. (He won 26, by the way.)
8. At 234 minutes, Gone with the Wind is the longest film ever to win Best Picture.
9. The youngest ever Oscar winner was Tatum O’Neal, aged 10, for Paper Moon (1973); the oldest was Jessica Tandy, 80, for her hole in Driving Miss Daisy (1989).
10. You can only be nominated for an Oscar by your peers.
The votes are cast by the roughly 9,000 members of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Members nominate candidates in their respective fields—film editors vote for film editing, etc. Oscar winners are chosen by a second round of voting where all members vote in each category.
On the day of the Academy Awards ceremony the results are tallied and sealed in envelopes. (A duplicate set is locked away… Just in case.)
11. Thank-you’s are capped at 45 seconds.
Oscar winners are told to limit thank-you’s to 45 seconds or risk being drowned out by the orchestra. Many ignore this. In 2001, Julia Roberts began her Best Actress award acceptance speech for her role in Erin Brockovich by making sure the conductor knew exactly how she felt: “Sir, you’re doing a great job but you’re so quick with that stick. So why don’t you sit, because I may never be here again.” It worked: the orchestra let her finish.
12. Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar.
“What were they thinking?” It’s a question often asked about the Academy’s many missteps in failing to honour the greats. Alfred Hitchcock, nominated five times for Best Director, never won. His movies Vertigo, The Birds, and The Man Who Knew Too Much weren’t even nominated for Best Picture. Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles were snubbed. George C. Scott and Marlon Brando thought so little of the awards they refused to accept their Best Actor statuettes. Best Actress winner Jodie Foster once said, “Much as I love the Oscar-night pageantry, it’s just a silly bingo game.”
13. Tickets to the first Oscars ceremony cost $5.
The first Academy Awards were held on May 16, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel; 250 attended, and the event lasted 10 minutes. Best Picture went to the silent movie, Wings.
14. After winning 1935’s Best Actor award for It Happened One Night, Clark Gable made the shortest-ever acceptance speech, saying simply, “Thank you.”
15. In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first black person to be nominated for an Academy Award—or attend an Academy banquet—and burst into tears when she won her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as the maid Mammy in Gone with the Wind.
16. In 1970, Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture—the only X-rated film to do so.
17. Katherine Hepburn attended the Academy Awards ceremony only once, in 1974, and it was to present an honorary award. After a few minutes on stage, she dashed into a waiting limousine. As she once noted, “Prizes are nothing. My prize is my work.” She holds the record for most acting Oscars: four.
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