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pipcarew
7th March 2023

So you’ve won an Oscar: What’s next?

The Dos and Don’ts of the Oscars acceptance speech in preparation for this year’s ceremony
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So you’ve won an Oscar: What’s next?
Photo: Harold Neal @ Flickr

So you’ve finally done it, you’ve won an Oscar – the biggest accolade in the world of film and now you have to stand in front of all the people who have supported you, everyone who has ever doubted you, and 15 million+ viewers. So what are you going to say to them?

I have spent the past week meticulously studying the art of the acceptance speech and have formed the ultimate dos and don’ts list of speech etiquette ahead of the ceremony on March 12.

Good luck and don’t trip over the stage.

photo of Jennifer Lawrence falling over the steps at the 85th Oscars
Photo: The Oscars @ YouTube.com

Don’t: Run over your time

There’s nothing more awkward than being forced offstage by the muzak at the Oscars. Yes you’ve worked years for this award and it represents all of your self-sacrifice and dedication but you only have 45 seconds, make it count and don’t forget anyone… no pressure!

Do: Gush over your co-stars and fellow nominees

If Hollywood is driven by shameless networking then where better to do it than the world stage? Giving a shout-out to those in your category who did not win is an excellent opportunity to appear humble while the camera cuts back to them in the audience holding back tears and clapping bitterly.

Mentioning those who didn’t win is a particularly endearing gesture. Olivia Colman’s delightfully British speech in which she blew a raspberry at the teleprompter, gushed over Lady Gaga, and promised to snog everyone she had forgotten to thank – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Likewise, Lupita N’yongo’s 2014 acceptance speech for Best Actress in 12 Years a Slave was the epitome of grace and elegance.

N’yongo thanked director Steve McQueen, acknowledged the contributions of her fellow actors and editor Joe Walker, all within the allotted time, and ended on the inspirational note, “when I look down at this little golden statue may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid”.

Don’t: Get political

Opting for heavy-handed political messaging at the Oscars is almost certainly doomed to parodying, especially if you’re an A-list star whose relationship to the real world is often tangential at best. Who can forget Sean Penn’s misfire at the 2004 Academy Awards, when his joke regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction in relation to the Iraq war felt incredibly out of place with his surroundings?

While hosting the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais fearlessly pleaded with celebrities to not get political in their acceptance speeches, saying: “If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech, you’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world.”

There are a handful of instances in which political gestures have been memorable at the Oscars, such as in 1972 when Marlon Brando sent Native American Sacheen Littlefeather as a protest against the treatment of indigenous groups, whilst Frances McDormand implored fellow female creatives (actors, cinematographers, costume designers etc.) to stand up in a symbolic plea for gender equality at the 2018 awards, following her Best Actress win for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

 

Do: Have a good backstory

Waited longer than your current girlfriend has been alive for an Oscar like Leo? Riding the wave of an exorbitant comeback after Hollywood has ignored you for your entire adult career like Ke Huy Quan? Then you’re a shoo in.

Remember to mention the struggle that got you to where you are today. The Oscars are, after all, supposed to be the highest accolades in storytelling so the real life story behind your stardom must bolster the film you represent. Hollywood adores the myth of meritocracy so it’s best to keep quiet that your uncle was in Jurassic Park.

Don’t: Thank Harvey Weinstein

Not a good look in 2023. Weinstein is actually the second most thanked person by Oscar winners beaten only by God. There is no more evidence necessary to prove that Hollywood and the Academy are corrupt institutions that are rife with contradictions.

 

Don’t: Resort to physical violence (obviously)

This should go without saying but after last year’s slap fiasco, you can’t be too careful.

 

Do: Be funny

Whether it be Bong Joon Ho’s closing remark “thank you I will drink until next morning!” after his Best Director award for Parasite or Robin Williams’ bittersweet ode to his father in 1998, “when I said I wanted to be an actor he said wonderful, just have a back-up profession like welding”, it’s important to not take the Oscars too seriously.

Ultimately, it’s an excuse for a night of shameless glitz and glamour: undoubtedly talented people will get snubbed and the technical categories will get cut from air time, there is no reason to take the Academy’s choices as Gospel. However, it’s the celebration of film that keeps us coming back every year and this mutual love of the form is what ties us to those onscreen.

 

The 95th Academy Awards air at 12.00am on Monday March 13 in the UK, lasting until approximately 03.00am. Watch live on SkyShowcase or NOW.

pipcarew

pipcarew

Pip Carew is a third-year student at the University of Manchester studying Film Studies and English Literature. As head editor of the film section, she enjoys writing cultural journalism and has interviewed many industry professionals. After graduation Pip hopes to pursue a career in journalism with anyone who will let her write.

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