CLOSE

7 Great Oscar Night Surprises

Every year during Oscar season, you can always safely guess one thing: Before the awards are presented, critics will complain about how predictable the Oscars are. But while every year seems to have a few obvious results, you do get the occasional shocker. Take the 1996 awards, for example, when Lauren Bacall was expected to be named Best Supporting Actress because, frankly, she was getting old. Instead, young Juliette Binoche's name was announced, which was a problem, because she hadn't even prepared a speech. "I don't know why I got this," she apologized. "I thought Lauren would win." Yes, sometimes the Oscars can surprise. Here are some of the most memorable occasions.

1. Katharine Hepburn (1932-33)

As a young actress, Katharine Hepburn was dubbed "box-office poison," and wasn't well-liked in Hollywood, so just being nominated for Morning Glory was surprising enough. She didn't even show up to the Oscars ceremony, which she might have found entertaining. Host for the night was liberal satirist Will Rogers, joking about Republicans, Hollywood big shots, even Oscars lobbying (predating Jon Stewart's Oscar night banter by 73 years). His rudest joke, however, was reserved for the Best Actress award. Upon opening the envelope, he summoned the other two nominees, May Robson and Diana Wynyard. They rushed up excitedly, assuming that it was a tie (as had happened with the Best Actor prize the previous year). Instead, Rogers thanked them for their performances and announced that the winner was their rival, Katharine Hepburn. (Funny, perhaps"¦ but what a creep!) The stunned crowd replied with a half-hearted applause.

Hollywood later warmed to Hepburn, eventually giving her another three Oscars "“ more than any other actress. Though she never bothered to show up, Hepburn confessed in 1998 that she felt touched by her Oscars. "They gave me their respect and their affection. It was a revelation "“ the generous heart of the industry." Even after her death, she proved that she could still win Oscars, when Cate Blanchett took home a statuette for playing her in The Aviator (2004).

2. Luise Rainer (1937)

luise.jpgWhen Luise Rainer was nominated as Best Actress for The Good Earth (1937), she didn't even bother to show up to the Oscars, opting to stay home instead. She had won the previous year, and was convinced (like most people) that no actor could ever win consecutive Oscars. Besides, she was up against the revered Greta Garbo, who had never won, for her acclaimed performance in Camille. However, their boss, tycoon Louis B. Mayer, used his considerable power to get an advance peek of the winners' names on the night "“ and found that Rainer had indeed beaten the great Garbo! At the last moment, she was ordered to throw on a gown and rush to the awards ceremony, with no time even to apply her make-up. When her second victory in a row was announced, the audience was somewhat taken aback.

While it was a great honor, it didn't do her much good. Within a year, her career had fizzled. "I have often heard the Academy Award to be a bad omen," she later said. Still, she is the oldest living Oscar winner (at 99), so it's not all bad news.

3. An American in Paris (1951)

american-paris.jpgThe bookies could have made a killing during the 1951 Oscars, when it was assumed that A Streetcar Named Desire would sweep the field. Easily the favorite, it would win four Oscars, including three of the acting awards. A major upset happened, however, when the Best Director award went not to Streetcar director Elia Kazan, but to George Stevens for the long shot A Place in the Sun. Of course, the Best Director usually directs the Best Film. After this shock, all bets were off. It could go either way: A Streetcar Named Desire or A Place in the Sun. When the envelope was opened, at one of the most suspenseful Oscar nights ever, the winner was"¦ An American in Paris.

There was an audible gasp from the audience, followed by loud applause. People who were already leaving suddenly stopped near the exit, wondering if their hearing was all right. Back then, musicals never won the Oscar for Best Film. (The only exception was The Broadway Melody, way back in 1928.) Gene Kelly, the star of An American in Paris, had even been presented with an honorary Oscar that night, which is usually a consolation prize for people who will never win a "real" Oscar. Now his producer, Arthur Freed, was proudly holding one of those statuettes.

4. Grace Kelly (1954)

grace-kelly.jpgJudy Garland was a lock for the 1954 Best Actress award for the musical A Star is Born. Not only was it a fine performance, but she was one of Hollywood's best-loved stars. Most of all, this was her great comeback, after years of breakdowns and personal struggles. On the night itself, she was in hospital recovering from her latest drama: the premature birth of her son. A camera crew was at her bedside, she was wired for sound, and her hair and make-up were done for the inevitable announcement.

To everyone's shock, the Oscar instead went to 26-year-old former model Grace Kelly, for The Country Girl. To this day, critics call this one of the strangest decisions in Oscars history. Once again showing her acting prowess, Garland smiled graciously at the news, while being secretly heartbroken. Kelly would retire from acting two years later to become Princess Grace of Monaco.

5. Marisa Tomei (1992)

tomei.jpgAt the 1992 Oscars, the favorite for best supporting actress was esteemed Australian actress Judy Davis, nominated for Husbands and Wives. Still, she had some fine competition from classical British thespians Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave and Miranda Richardson. With such an outstanding field, many were flabbergasted when Jack Palance opened the envelope and announced that the winner was"¦ cute young Brooklyn-born actress Marisa Tomei, for her funny performance in My Cousin Vinny. To this day, film buffs can't believe it. It was unkindly suggested that, upon opening the envelope, 74-year-old Palance didn't actually read it, but absent-mindedly repeated the name of the last nominee. For the record, many safeguards are in place to ensure that flubs don't become official results.

But how could Tomei have won against such a prestigious group? Well, the Academy is famously patriotic. The British vote would have been split "“ but as the only American nominee, perhaps it should have been surprising if Tomei had not won.

6. Roman Polanski (2002)

roman.jpgFew film directors are as notorious as the French-born, Polish director Roman Polanski. His outspoken opinions about Hollywood have upset many people. His dark and disturbing films, like Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown, are not exactly date movies. Oh, and he has been a fugitive from justice since fleeing the US in 1978 while facing statutory rape charges. So when he was nominated for his movie The Pianist, he was not considered a serious prospect, especially against Martin Scorsese, who (as the Academy was often reminded) still didn't have an Oscar after many years as one of Hollywood's great directors. Scorsese didn't have a lock on the award, however. As Chicago swept the field, things were looking good for Rob Marshall, director of that crowd-pleasing movie. But while Chicago would be named Best Film, it was Polanski who would take the Best Director prize "“ and despite his sordid past, this was greeted with a warm applause. Of course, he couldn't be there to accept it. His friend Harrison Ford accepted it on his behalf.

7. Marlon Brando (1972)

oscars-07.jpgLet's save perhaps the biggest surprise for last. When Brando was announced as the Best Actor winner for The Godfather, it was no surprise. Even though his Don Corleone wasn't really the lead actor (he died somewhere in the middle of the film), he was expected to win for his unforgettable performance. The surprise wasn't in the result, but in the acceptance of his award. Instead of the man himself, a Native American woman in tribal regalia introduced herself as Sacheen Littlefeather. "I'm representing Marlon Brando this evening, and he has asked me to tell you that he very regretfully cannot accept this generous award "“ and the reason for this, being the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry." After she left, to a stunned audience, presenter Clint Eastwood had to follow her. "I don't know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot in John Ford westerns over the years," he said.

It was later reported that Littlefeather was actually an actress named Maria Cruz (she has her rebuttal here), and that Brando still received the award, displaying it proudly next to his other Oscar. Still, it goes down one of the great surprises of Oscar night history.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures
arrow
entertainment
Scarface is Returning to Theaters for Its 35th Anniversary
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures

Pop culture history was forever altered on December 9, 1983, when Scarface arrived in movie theaters across America. A loose remake of Howard Hawks's classic 1932 gangster film, Brian De Palma's F-bomb-laden story of a Cuban immigrant who becomes the king of Miami's drug scene by murdering anyone in his path is still being endlessly dissected, and quoted, today. To celebrate the film's place in cinema history, the Tribeca Film Festival is teaming up with Screenvision Media and Universal Pictures to bring the film back into theaters next month.

Just last month, Scarface screened at New York City's Tribeca Film Festival as part of a 35th anniversary celebration. The film's main cast and crew—including De Palma and stars Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Steven Bauer—were on hand to discuss the making of the film and why it has endured as a contemporary classic. (Yes, that's the same conversation that left the panel momentarily speechless when moderator Jesse Kornbluth asked Pfeiffer how much she weighed during filming.) That post-screening Q&A will be part of the upcoming screenings.

"Scarface is a timeless film that has influenced pop culture in so many ways over the last 35 years. We're thrilled to partner with Universal Pictures and Tribeca Film Festival to bring it back to the big screen in celebration of its anniversary," Darryl Schaffer, executive vice president of operations and exhibitor relations at Screenvision Media, said in a press statement. "The Tribeca Film Festival talk was an important commemoration of the film. We're excited to extend it to the big screen and provide fans a behind-the-scenes insight into what production was like in the 1980s."

Scarface will screen at select theaters nationwide on June 10, June 11, and June 13, 2018. Visit Scarface35.com to find out if Tony Montana and his little friend will be coming back to a cinema near you.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
arrow
entertainment
11 Magical Facts About Willow
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Five years after the release of Return of the Jedi (1983) and four years after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), George Lucas gave audiences the story for another film about an unlikely hero on an epic journey, but this time he had three Magic Acorns and a taller friend instead of a whip and gun to help him along. Willow (1988) was directed by Ron Howard and starred former Ewok and future Leprechaun, Warwick Davis.

Over the past few decades, Willow—which was released 30 years ago today—has become a cult classic that's been passed down from generation to generation. Before you sit down to explore that world again (or for the first time), here are 11 things you might not have know about Willow.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR WARWICK DAVIS.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Warwick Davis revealed that George Lucas first mentioned the idea for the film to Davis’s mother during the filming of one of the Ewok TV specials in 1983, in which he was reprising his role as Wicket. Lucas had been developing the idea for more than a decade at that point, but working with Davis on Return of the Jedi helped him realize the vision. “George just simply said that he had this idea, and he was writing this story, with me in mind,” Davis said. “He didn't say at that time that it was going to be called Willow. He said, 'It's not for quite yet; it's for a few years ahead, when Warwick is a bit older.'" The role was Davis’s first time not wearing a mask or costume on screen.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED MUNCHKINS.

Five years after he mentioned the idea, Lucas was ready to make his film with Ron Howard directing and a then-17-year-old Davis as the lead. The original title was presumably inspired by the characters from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the subsequent Victor Fleming film.

3. IT WAS CRITICIZED FOR BEING A COPY OF STAR WARS.

Having thought of the two worlds simultaneously, Lucas may have cribbed some of his own work and other well-known stories a little too much for Willow, and some critics noticed. “Without anything like [Star Wars’s] eager, enthusiastic tone, and indeed with an understandable weariness, Willow recapitulates images from Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, Gulliver's Travels, Mad Max, Peter Pan, Star Wars itself, The Hobbit saga, Japanese monster films of the 1950s, the Bible, and a million fairy tales," wrote Janet Maslin of The New York Times. "One tiny figure combines the best attributes of Tinkerbell, the Good Witch Glinda, and the White Rock Girl.”

Later in her review, Maslin continued to point out the similarities between the two films: “When the sorcerer tells Willow to follow his heart, he becomes the Obi-Wan Kenobi of a film that also has its Darth Vader, R2-D2, C-3P0 and Princess Leia stand-ins. Much energy has gone into the creation of their names, some of which (General Kael) have recognizable sources and others (Burglekutt, Cherlindrea, Airk) have only tongue-twisting in mind. Not even the names have anything like Star Wars-level staying power.”

4. IT WAS THE LARGEST CASTING CALL FOR LITTLE PEOPLE IN MOVIE HISTORY.

Lucas has previously cast several little people for roles in Return of the Jedi, and there were more than 100 actors hired to portray Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. But, according to Davis, the casting call for Willow was the largest ever at the time with between 225 and 240 actors hired for the film.

5. THE DEATH DOGS WERE REAL DOGS IN COSTUME.

The big bad in the film, Bavmorda, has demon dogs that terrorize Willow’s village. The dogs are more boar-like than canine, but they were portrayed by Rottweilers. The prop team outfitted the dogs with rubber masks and used animatronic heads for close-up scenes.

6. IT WAS THE FIRST USE OF MORPHING IN A FILM.

While trying to use magic to turn an animal back into a human, Willow fails several times before eventually getting it right, but he does succeed in turning the animal into another animal, which is shown in stages. To achieve this, the visual effects teamed used a technique known as "morphing."

The film’s visual effects supervisor, Dennis Muren of Industrial Light & Magic, explained the technique to The Telegraph:

The way things had been up till that time, if a character had to change at some way from a dog into a person or something like that it could be done with a series of mechanical props. You would have to cut away to a person watching it, and then cut back to another prop which is pushing the ears out, for example, so it didn't look fake ... we shot five different pieces of film, of a goat, an ostrich, a tiger, a tortoise, and a woman and had one actually change into the shape of the other one without having to cut away. The technique is much more realistic because the cuts are done for dramatic reasons, rather than to stop it from looking bad.”

7. THE STORY WAS CONTINUED IN SEVERAL NOVELS.

Willow has yet to receive a sequel, but fans of the story can return to the world in a trilogy of books that author Chris Claremont wrote in collaboration with Lucas between 1995 and 2000. According to the Amazon synopsis of Shadow Moon, the first book picks up 13 years after the events of the film, and baby Elora Danan’s friendless upbringing has turned her into a “spoiled brat who seemingly takes joy in making miserable the lives around her. The fate of the Great Realms rests in her hands, and she couldn't care less. Only a stranger can lead her to her destiny.”

8. THERE IS A MISSING SCENE CONCERNING THE MAGIC ACORNS.

Hardcore fans of the film have noticed that there is a continuity error that involves the Magic Acorns Willow was given by the High Aldwin. During an interview with The Empire Podcast, Davis explained that in a scene near the end of the film, he throws a second acorn and is inexplicably out after having only used two of the three Magic Acorns he had been given earlier in the film. Included in the Blu-ray release is the cut scene, in which Willow uses an acorn (his second) in a boat during a storm and accidentally turns the boat to stone. Davis says that his hair is wet in the next scene that did make it into the original version of the film, but the acorn is never referenced.

9. JOHN CUSACK AUDITIONED FOR THE PART OF MADMARTIGAN.

Val Kilmer in 'Willow' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Val Kilmer famously played the role of the reluctant hero two years after played Iceman in Top Gun (1986), but he was not the only big name to audition for the role. Davis revealed in a commentary track that he once read with John Cusack, who in 1987 had already starred in Sixteen Candles (1984), Stand by Me (1986), and Hot Pursuit (1987).

10. THERE IS A NOD TO SISKEL AND EBERT.

During a battle scene later in the film, Willow and his compatriots have to fight a two-headed beast outside of the castle. The name of the stop motion beast is the Eborsisk, which is a combination of the names of famed film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

11. THE BABY NEVER ACTED AGAIN.

A scene from 'Willow' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

As is the case with most shows and films, the role of the baby Elora was played by twins, in this case Kate and Ruth Greenfield. The IMDb pages for both actresses only has the one credit. In 2007, Davis shared a picture of him posing with a woman named Laura Hopkirk, who said that she played the baby for the scenes shot in New Zealand, but she is not credited online.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios