The 1963 Oscar ceremony marked a significant milestone in the history of the Academy Awards—and for African-American actors. Sidney Poitier took the best actor prize for Lilies Of The Field, an “Amen” moment, to quote the best picture nominee’s famous song, if ever there was one. Until Poitier, only Hattie McDaniel, who won best supporting actress in 1939 for Gone With The Wind, held the distinction for any African-American actor, and it would take another two decades after Poitier’s seminal win for it to happen again (when An Officer And A Gentleman’s Louis Gossett Jr. won a supporting statuette in 1982). After presenter Anne Bancroft opened the envelope and excitedly read Poitier’s name, he bounded to the stage as the orchestra played “Amen” and he famously called it, “a long journey to this moment.” Poitier said he didn’t expect to win, and many predicted Tom Jones star Albert Finney would take it. (Neither Finney nor the other nominated actors—Paul Newman (Hud), Richard Harris (This Sporting Life) and Rex Harrison (Cleopatra)—were in attendance, but that was not uncommon in Oscar’s earlier days.) After all, Tom Jones would prove to be the evening’s big winner, taking best picture and three other Oscars.
OSCARS: A Look Back On The 50th Anniversary Of Sidney Poitier’s Historic Win – How Far Have We Come?
Interviews by AwardsLine Editor Christy Grosz and Deputy Editor Anna Lisa Raya.
Here are some of this year’s lesser-known Oscar nominees, whose skills helped make the director’s and actors’ visions come to life. Without their research, technical mastery, or their ability to translate a story into melodies or visual effects, there would be none of the groundbreaking, iconic, historically significant films we’ve seen this past year. These are the real players who toiled in front of and behind the camera to make the 2013 Oscar season one of the best in recent memory.
Julie Delpy, Adapted Screenplay, Before Midnight
AwardsLine: What was the biggest challenge in writing and acting the 14-minute-long opening take?
Delpy: If we were able to do that as an improvised scene, we’d be geniuses. And we’re not geniuses. We work really hard at making it seem flawless, especially writing backstory stuff without seeming on the nose or expository. It’s the hardest part. How do you make it seem like we’re just having a conversation when we’re actually setting up the entire rest of the film, explaining what happened in the past nine years?
Breathing a sigh of relief once again Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years A Slave pulled out another squeaker at the BAFTA Awards just as it did at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and the Producers Guild (where it tied Gravity). Going into the BAFTAs with ten nominations and favored status, as it was directed by Brit Steve McQueen and starred Brit Chiwetel Ejiofor, it looked like a total shutout losing award after award and going 0 for 7 (including surprising losses for Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor) but finally getting on the board with Ejiofor’s Best Actor win and then pulling off Best Film shortly after in a ceremony that reflected the kinds of splits we have seen all season. At the Globes you may recall it went 0 for 6 before nabbing Best Drama Picture at the end of the evening. Somehow McQueen winds up on stage at the end of all these shows making an acceptance speech and that’s what counts.
Related: BAFTA Awards: ‘12 Years A Slave’ Wins Best Film But ‘Gravity’ Carries Most Weight With Six Total Nods; Chiwetel Ejiofor & Cate Blanchett Take Actor Wins; ‘American Hustle’ Scores 3 Including For Jennifer Lawrence
This is an unusual year to say the least and the BAFTA win for 12 Years A Slave where it helps the most gives it bragging rights as Oscar voting is getting underway this weekend. But these kinds of narrow victories might be a little tension-headache inducing for Searchlight as it now heads to the Oscars in the tightest race in years. Slave was expected to do much better here than it did overall. The results indicate voting was all over the map. BAFTA is important as there may be as many as 500 members that it shares in common with the motion picture Academy. The outcome really did nothing to add more clarity or certainty in a see-sawing Best Picture Oscar race with Gravity’s six BAFTA wins including Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron and Outstanding British Film keeping it in strong contention. Perhaps BAFTA voters thought they could offer up their own PGA-style split by giving these two films their own producing prize? Who knows? Here’s the good news for Slave . The BAFTA Best Film winner has gone on to win the Oscar for Best Picture for the past five years a row. However in the four previous years before that streak it failed to match Oscar’s top winner, so into which camp will Slave fall? Again, who knows? Makes things exciting though.
The Contenders 2013: First-Time Actor Barkhad Abdi On ‘Captain Phillips’ Co-Star Tom Hanks: “He’s Really Good At It”
Barkhad Abdi had never acted before being plucked out of obscurity in Minneapolis (by way of his native Somalia and Yemen) to audition for director Paul Greengrass as the key Somali Pirate who takes over the cargo ship captained by Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. Now he’s even being recognized when he walks down the street, he told me during our interview as part of Sony’s presentation at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event Saturday at the Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. There’s Supporting Actor Oscar buzz now too and getting to tell his story in front of the 500 AMPAS and Guild members present won’t hurt. He charmed the crowd.
The Contenders 2013: ‘Gravity’ Screenwriter Jonas Cuaron (Video)
The Contenders 2013: T Bone Burnett & ‘Llewyn Davis’ (Video)
The Contenders 2013: Ziskin’s Fight To Get ‘The Butler’ Made (Video)
The Contenders 2013: ‘All Is Lost’ And Redford’s Heavy Breathing (Video)