Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right Illinois icon-chevron-right Chicago icon-chevron-right Eight Oscar speeches that will make you cringe

Eight Oscar speeches that will make you cringe

From the slushy to the smug—the stars who gave us a crash course in how not to accept an Academy Award
Angelina Jolie
Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Girl, Interrupted, 2000 What went wrong?After God and agent, family is the next on the “to thank” list. Angelina Jolie went a tiny bit too far with her slushy, weird shout out to her Oscar date, her brother James. “I’m just so in love with my brother right now.” Cue embarrassed silence. Blame nerves, or maybe that Morticia Addams outfit sent her a little creepy? Take-home lesson for Oscar winnersRandom thought enters your head on the winners’ podium. Count to five. Edit.
Gwyneth Paltrow
Best Actress, Shakespeare in Love, 1999 What went wrong?A serious breach of the blubbing rules. A gentle sob is perfectly acceptable. A delicate wiping away of a tear, positively encouraged. But as soon as they announced her name, Gwynnie switched on the waterworks. In her speech were signs of the smugness that makes her the object of such scorn. She described one friend as an “earthly guardian angel” and even managed to grate while thanking her family: “Grandpa, I want you to know that you’ve created a beautiful family who loves you and loves each other.” Take-home lesson for Oscar winnersKeep it dignified.
James Cameron
Best Director, Titanic (1998) What went wrong?“I’m the king of the world!.” His film had just won 11 Oscars, so you’d forgive James Cameron for having a little moment like he’d just discovered the cure for Alzheimer's. Trouble is, Cameron looks like a math teacher trying to high-five the coolest kid in school. His fist-pumping “king of the world” statement fell embarrassingly flat. The worst of it is that you can see him working up to it. A classic toe-curler. Take-home lesson for Oscar winnersKnow thyself. If whoo-hoo-ing isn’t your bag, for heaven’s sake don’t try it in front a global audience of millions.
Tom Hanks
Best Actor Philadelphia, 1994 What went wrong?Tom Hanks deservedly won an Oscar for playing a man dying of AIDS in Philadelphia, the first mainstream Hollywood film about the illness. And his speech was humble and moving (“the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels”). But Hanks made one great big enormous boob when he thanked his high-school drama teacher and a friend both by name—“two of the finest gay Americans.” The problem? His teacher was still in the closet. Whoopsie. The incident inspired the Kevin Kline film In & Out. Take-home lesson for Oscar winnersDon’t out a gay man*. Simple. *Unless he’s a right-wing politician with an anti-gay voting record.
Kate Winslet
Best Actress, The Reader, 2009 What went wrong?Kate Winslet’s thing is being normal—I’m Hollywood royalty but I eat junk food and hang out with the crew. If you find that annoying about her at the best of times, you'll probably hate her Oscar speech. That Cinderella story (describing how, at age eight, she pretended a shampoo bottle was an Academy Award) was meant to be humble, but feels way over the top. Take-home lesson for Oscar winnersDon’t overthink it.
Sean Penn
Best Actor, Mystic River, 2004 What went wrong?There are guys who can saunter up to collect an Oscar unprepared and dudishly shoot the breeze (see Bridges, Jeff). Sean Penn is not that guy. He starts predictably enough with an anti-Iraq war joke. Being a fine actor, he’s good at looking deep, so he gives us plenty of heavy-weight pauses—as if a treatise by Sartre on the moral consequences of existentialist thought is about to come out of his mouth. What follows is the most boring, rambling Oscar speech ever, in which he randomly thanks whoever pops in his head. Worst of all, he has just beat Bill Murray (Bill Murray!) for the Oscar. And we can only dream of the riches his speech would have mined. Take-home lesson for Oscar winnersUnless you have the repartee of Stephen Fry, write a speech.
Sacheen Littlefeather
On behalf of Marlon Brando, Best Actor, The Godfather, 1973 What went wrong?When Marlon Brando decided to boycott the Oscars, rather than declining the award in person, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather in full Apache dress on stage to protest against the poor treatment of Native Americans. We guess there would have been more booing if Littlefeather read out the 15-page speech Brando wrote for her (a producer told her to keep it to 60 seconds). As for poor snubbed Oscar, Roger Moore apparently took it home with him for safekeeping, until such time as the Academy could send round armed guards for it. The story has a happy ending for Oscar. He was thriftily recycled and given to Charlie Chaplin as a lifetime achievement award a couple of years later. Take-home lesson for Oscar winnersDo your own dirty work.
Sally Field
Best Actress, Places in the Heart, 1985 What went wrong?Imagine you are a stalker. You’ve had your eye on someone for a while. Maybe you’ve sat outside their house, sent flowers? Eventually you summon up the courage to ask your beloved out for dinner. They say yes. How do you feel? Bless her, this is the effect of Sally Field’s gushy, over the top speech, ending on a note of border-line hysteria: “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now… You like me!” Take-home lesson for Oscar winnersDon’t actually tell them what you’re feeling.

See more Oscars features


Best Supporting Actor winnter Jared Leto: interview

The Dallas Buyers Club star on playing a transsexual called Rayon opposite Matthew McConaughey Jared Leto lost over 30 pounds to play Rayon, a transsexual drug addict with HIV in Dallas Buyers Club. Funny and sad, his performance will touch your heart and has earned him an Oscar nomination. It’s not the first time the onetime My So-Called Life star has pushed his body to the limits. The 42-year-old dropped 24 pounds for Requiem for a Dream and grew to nearly 16 stone to play John Lennon’s killer in Chapter 27.Despite being scarily skeletal as Rayon, Leto makes a surprisingly pretty woman. Does he agree? "No! I don’t think if I was walking down the street anyone would be going 'Look at that hot chick.'" But the actor, who is also frontman of the band 30 Seconds to Mars, clearly prepared well for the role. So how did he do it? Follow us                    He flirted with the director "It wasn’t an audition. But I had a meeting with the director over Skype. I said hello and reached over, grabbed lipstick and put it on. His jaw dropped. I unbuttoned my jacket, and underneath I had on a little pink fuzzy sweater. I proceeded to flirt with him for 20 minutes." Most popular in Film The Monuments Men What price art? Multihyphenate George Clooney’s true-life WWII adventure—a frustrating tonal mishmash—puts the question up front, as curator and conservationist Frank Stokes (Clooney) lays it all out for President Roosevelt: Hitler and his cronies have stolen tons of t


The 50 most-deserving Oscar winners of all time

Movies, actors, directors, soundtracks: one list to rule them all. Follow us                    Most popular in Film The LEGO Movie With one obvious exception, toy stories don’t have the luckiest big-screen pedigree: The results are often either sugary cartoons for undemanding kids or noisy blockbusters for brain-dead teens. If the producers of The LEGO Movie had taken either approach, there would have been an outcry. These lifeless plastic bricks are too beloved, too iconic to be subjected to the Hollywood sausage-factory treatment. Luckily for all, someone had the foresight to bring in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and the result is bold, berserk and strangely beautiful, exuding LEGO love from each frame. Our everyman hero, Emmet (Chris Pratt), is the happiest guy in Bricksville: He’s gainfully employed as a construction worker (what else?), he adores his coworkers, and he knows that mighty President Business (Will Ferrell) has his best interests at heart. So when he’s thrown into an epic conflict between Business’s robot clones and the forces of creativity and invention (led, of course, by Batman and Abraham Lincoln), all Emmet wants is to get back to normality. Occasional pacing issues aside, The LEGO Movie is sheer joy: The script is witty, the satire surprisingly pointed, and the animation tactile and imaginative. Expect controversy over the climax, though. The film plunges deep into waters left uncharted sin


20 of the worst Oscar winners in history

Tom Huddleston lists the least deserving Academy Award winners. It’s Oscar season once again—and while Academy members scratch their heads trying to decide which of this year’s crop of worthy titles deserves to take home the big prize, we trawl the archives to uncover the worst Oscar offenses of all time. From the film that beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture to the time Harry and the Hendersons walked away with a handful of gold, here are all the Academy’s biggest blunders in one handy list.This is by no means a definitive rundown of all of Oscar’s shoddy decisions—we didn’t even have room to mention Celine Dion or Chicago—so if you really, really hate Titanic or really, really love Forrest Gump, tell us about it in the comments box below. Follow us                    You might also like Most popular in Film Andrew Rafacz Gallery Established in 2004 as Bucket Rider Gallery, Andrew Rafacz features emerging and mid-career artists working in video, painting, photography, sculpture and other media. The roster includes photographers Jason Lazarus and John Opera, painter Wendy White, prolific designer Cody Hudson and more. Gallery 400 Founded in 1983, Gallery 400 has established itself as a venue for cutting-edge contemporary art, architecture and design. Featuring local, national and international artists, the university gallery combines intellectual exhibitions with an approachable atmosphere, offering a diverse program of lectures and events for students, professional arti


Steve McQueen interview: "This is not a black movie or a white movie"

On the day 12 Years a Slave received nine Oscar nominations, we picked up the phone to the Hunger and Shame director to find out if he cares about awards The 1840s-set real-life historical drama 12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, an African-American man kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. It’s 44-year-old British director Steve McQueen’s third feature film after Hunger and Shame, and it's his first feature to receive any Oscar nominations. McQueen's film is currently poised to win big at the Academy Awards on March 2, and so a few hours after hearing of the nominations we tracked him down in Los Angeles, where he was staying following the Golden Globe awards earlier this week. Follow us                    Congratulations on your film’s nine Oscar nominations. You must be over the moon.I’m so happy. Really humbled. It’s such a honour. And I’m so happy for the cast and their nominations. Where were you when you found out?In bed sleeping, in Los Angeles. But I thought: this might never happen again, so I got up and put the TV on. Then the phone started ringing. Do the Oscars matter?Yes they matter! Because people see the film. We didn’t have a lot of money for advertising, so it means people will look at the nominations and go and see the movie. I can’t tell you how helpful it is. People said 12 Years a Slave would be too brutal for audiences. But you’re number one at the box office in the UK.In London people have been queuing


David O. Russell interview: "The Oscars make a big difference"

On the day American Hustle received ten Oscar nominations, we phoned director David O. Russell to find out how he felt. The 1970s-set crime comedy American Hustle is 55-year-old director David O. Russell’s seventh feature and stars Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as four larger-than-life characters caught up in a hugely entertaining East Coast con-artist yarn that’s heavy on wisecracks, costumes and music.Oscar voters clearly adore both Russell and the film: for the second year in a row, a film by the director of I Heart Huckabees and The Fighter is nominated in the Best Picture, Best Director and all four acting categories (the same happened with Silver Linings Playbook in 2013). A handful of other nominations means the film will share joint honors with Gravity as the most nominated picture at the Academy Awards on March 2. We called Russell at home in Los Angeles on the day he heard the news about the Oscar nominations. Follow us                    Congratulations on your film’s ten Oscar nominations. You must be happy?Well, I’m ecstatic and very happy for my actors and all my people. [Pause] Sorry, excuse me, I have a three-year-old here swinging a big ten-foot stick knocking shit over. [Laughs] Maybe he shouldn’t have that stick? Sorry.Were you up at dawn to hear the nominations?Yes I was. You never know, anything can happen. An-y-thing can happen! I wrote to everybody the night before and said thank you.You emailed your cast?Yeah, a

Show more
See all Oscars coverage

More to explore