Among the issues the few people who watched had with this year’s Academy Awards ceremony was its anticlimax. Instead of giving out the Best Picture trophy as the night’s final award, as is tradition, Best Actor was saved till the end. It was a curious choice that many speculated derived from Chadwick Boseman being that category’s frontrunner and the potential emotional impact of bestowing that award posthumously (as well as a probable speech from Boseman’s widow Simone Ledward Boseman). Boseman, however, did not win, and the actual winner, Anthony Hopkins, was not in attendance and so the quasi-social distanced ceremony ended abruptly.
Well, the speculation was right. Director Steven Soderbergh recently told the Los Angeles Times that he and his Oscars-producing partners Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, hedged their bets on a Boseman victory sending people out on a high note. “When the nominations came out and there was even the possibility that Chadwick could win posthumously, our feeling was if he were to win and his widow were to speak on his behalf, there would be nowhere to go after that,” he said. “So we stuck with it.”
I said if there was even the sliver of a chance that he would win and that his widow would speak, then we were operating under the fact that was the end of the show. So it wasn’t like we assumed it would, but if there was even a possibility that it would happen, then you have to account for that. That would have been such a shattering moment, that to come back after that would have been just impossible.
Surely, there have been pre-Best Picture high points in the past, something that Soderbergh acknowledged to the Times when he said, “It’s our belief — that I think is not unfounded — that actors’ speeches tend to be more dramatic than producers’ speeches.” Halle Berry becoming the first Black winner of Best Actress and Heath Ledger winning Best Supporting Actor posthumously come to mind. Nonetheless, Soderberg said that “this show was very much viewed by us and by the academy as an opportunity to try some really different stuff,” including a more story-based approach to presenting nominees.
“We thought it might be fun to mix it up, especially if people didn’t know that was coming,” he said. They thought wrong! But at least they gave it a good old Hollywood try.