Steven Soderbergh Admits That They Closed The Oscars With The Best Actor Category In Case Chadwick Boseman Won
Two Sundays ago, the Academy Awards broke with tradition by moving the Best Picture category to the third-last award of the night and closed the show with Best Actor. It made zero sense until you realized that the Academy was likely banking on a big, emotional ratings-grabbing end to the show when Chadwick Boseman was posthumously named Best Actor for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Steven Soderbergh, one of the producers of the 2021 Academy Awards, wants to clear the air, and he’d like you to know that the category of Best Actor was moved on purpose in the event Chadwick won.
The day after the 93rd Academy Awards abruptly ended with Joaquin Phoenix announcing the at-home asleep Anthony Hopkins as the Best Actor winner, ABC’s Rob Mills spoke to Variety about it. He claimed that the reason they switched the categories around was that they wanted to mix up the show and be unpredictable and that they took a “risk.” Steven Soderbergh’s explanation of things makes it sound like they really didn’t want to take a risk. Steven recently spoke to IndieWire and said that Chadwick’s potential win was the reason they moved the order of the categories, and it was because they felt that if he won, Taylor Simone Ledwar’s potential acceptance speech on behalf of her late husband would be so moving and so emotional, that there’s no way anyone or any segment could possibly follow it.
“It’s our belief – that I think is not unfounded – that actors’ speeches tend to be more dramatic than producers’ speeches. And so we thought it might be fun to mix it up, especially if people didn’t know that was coming. So that was always part of the plan. 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. So we stuck with it.”
Also, according to Steven, there was no guarantee Chadwick might win, and they didn’t want to risk messing with the vibe of the ceremony.
“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.”
Of course, it begs to be said that there has already been a posthumous Best Actor winner (Peter Finch for Network in 1977), and a Best Supporting Actor winner (Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight in 2008). And both of those categories didn’t get moved around to the end of the show. But it sounds like Steven was confident in their choice to move the category, just as he was confident in their choice to deny Anthony Hopkins an acceptance speech via Zoom:
When asked if the producing team would rethink their controversial decision to ban Zoom feeds, thus giving Hopkins the chance to appear during the broadcast, Soderbergh answered, “No.”
I understand wanting to avoid an awkward moment, but guess what Steven – all that planning then created the ultimate awkward moment! Because the person everyone thought was going to win, didn’t. And the person who did win wasn’t even allowed to make an acceptance speech. Steven, this is on you and the rest of the Oscars producers. You should have had a backup plan for your backup plan. Like having Joaquin invite Glenn Close on stage for an encore performance of Da Butt while the credits roll. Something! Anything!