How did the Oscars react to the Iraq war? From the frustrated boycott of Jack Nicholson to Michael Moore’s speech against Bush

A awards gala it can become a ticking time bomb when there are hot topics in the air. Something that in Spain we know well since 2003, when the protests over the Iraq War in the goya gala forever marked the relationship between Spanish cinema and political power. But what happened that year? the oscars?


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Well, hardly anything happened… but, yes Jack Nicholson Had he gotten away with it, the ceremony could have been as historic as it was controversial. As she revealed Adrian Brody, Nicholson (nominated that year for About Schmidt) he tried to organize a boycott of the gala among his fellow Best Actor hopefuls.

In an interview with The Sunday Times (via Indie Wire), Brody remembers that Nicholson invited the rest of the nominees to a meeting at his house. Little joke, because, in addition to himself and the host, they met there Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York), Michael Cain (The impassive American) Y Nicolas Cage (Adaptation: The Orchid Thief).

After treating the crowd to a few whiskeys, Nicholson blurted out his proposal. Brody does not go into detail about what position each guest defended, but he does acknowledge that he made it clear that he was going to attend: unlike his rivals, all of them already recognized by the Academy, he had been nominated for the first time thanks to The pianist, and he didn’t want to waste that boost for his career.

“I have to go. My parents will be there, and this is not something that happens every day,” recalls the actor. “All of you have already won and you can move on, but I can’t.” His words must have caught on, since Nicholson’s idea fell on deaf ears and all the nominated actors attended the ceremony. Even he, who took a punch from the presenter Steve Martin about your usual sunglasses.

What happened at the Oscars

Finally, as we know, Adrien Brody became the youngest winner to date in this category of the Oscars, something he celebrated with a kiss on the mouth from Halle Berry (who was handing over the trophy) and also with a speech in which He alluded to the war in Iraq. “I am very sad to accept this award at such a strange time,” he stated.

In general, Hollywood’s attitude to war during those Oscars was lukewarm. It is true that some interpreters like Cate Blanchett (who gave up an award at the last minute), Peter Jackson either Will Smith (whose agent excused him saying that it seemed “inappropriate” to make an appearance) preferred not to attend the gala, and that the situation in the Middle East was mentioned in some speeches, but, in general, the big stars kept a modest silence.

But there were exceptions: Andy Serkis, nominated for The two Towers, appeared on the red carpet with a sign that read “No more blood for oil”. Gael Garcia Bernal, who presented the award for Best Original Song, gave the first discordant note of the gala by stating “if Frida Kahlo were alive, she would be with us and against the war”.

Likewise, Pedro Almodóvar dedicated his award to the Original Screenplay (Talk to her) “to those who raise their voices for peace, human rights, democracy and international legality”. However, the highlight of the night was Michael Moore’s speech when he went up to collect his award for Best Documentary for Bowling for Columbine.

We all like non-fiction, but we live in fictional times,” said the filmmaker before reviewing the “fictitious election results” (an allusion to the controversial rise of George W Bush to the White House) and “fictitious presidents who send us to war for fictitious reasons”. And, yes, that last one was about weapons of mass destruction.

At this point, however, the attitude that seems most coherent is that of Aki Kaurismaki. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film for The man without a past the gloomy Finn declined to attend the gala for overtly political reasons: “I’m not going to go to the Oscars while the US government prepares a crime against humanity for shameless economic interest,” he said. Is anyone surprised that he didn’t win the award?

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