With the 87th Academy Awards ceremony being held tomorrow, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the most memorable acceptance speeches and Oscar winning moments over the years.
Hattie McDaniel winning Best Supporting Actress
Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American to win an Academy Award. She won for Gone With the Wind in 1940, 75 years ago. Despite her historic and groundbreaking win, McDaniel sat at a segregated table during the ceremony at the back of the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and she was barred from attending the premiere of her own movie due to Jim Crow laws. And it would take another 50 years after McDaniel’s win for another African-American actress to win (Whoopi Goldberg for Ghost).
Marlon Brando winning Best Actor
In an unprecedented move, Marlon Brando (who won for The Godfather in 1973) sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American civil rights activist, in his place because he was boycotting the Academy Awards. She was only 27-years-old at the time. John Wayne was backstage during her speech and had to be physically restrained because it angered him so much. “I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you in a very long speech, which I cannot share with you presently because of time but I will be glad to share with the press afterwards, that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry – excuse me – and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee. I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening and that we will in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando.”
Joe Pesci winning Best Supporting Actor
Award for shortest and most concise Oscar acceptance speech goes to Joe Pesci, who won for Goodfellas in 1990. “It was my privilege. Thank you.”
Julia Roberts winning Best Actress
Speaking to music conductor Bill Conti, she said, “And sir, you’re doing a great job, but you’re so quick with that stick. So why don’t you sit, ’cause I may never be here again.” Roberts was genuinely overjoyed to win her Oscar and that’s what makes this moment so spectacular.
Adrien Brody winning Best Actor
Brody made the most of his Oscar-winning moment. First, he spontaneously kisses Halle Berry, who presented the award. Then he cuts the orchestra short (the people who signal it’s time for you to leave the stage) so he can talk a little bit about peace and love. “This is, you know, it fills me with great joy, but I am also filled with a lot of sadness tonight because I’m accepting an award at such a strange time. And, you know, my experiences in making this film made me very aware of the sadness and the dehumanization of people at times of war, and the repercussions of war. And whomever you believe in, if it’s God or Allah, may He watch over you. And let’s pray for a peaceful and swift resolution. Thank you. And I have a friend from Queens who’s a soldier in Kuwait right now, Tommy Zarabinski. And I hope you and your boys make it back real soon. God bless you, guys.”
Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress
Lawrence may not have been the most deserving winner that year and her speech isn’t anything remarkable. The reason I’ve put this moment on this list is because of her slip and fall right before she goes to accept the Oscar, proving that you can still have a #fail even when you’re #winning.
“Let It Go” from Frozen winning Best Original Song
Most creative speech goes to Best Original Song winners, husband-wife duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. If you’re going to ramble off a bunch of names, you might as well make it rhyme!