Oscars 2021: ABC Executive Talks About the "Calculated Risk" of Ending With the Best Actor Category
The executive producers of the Oscars made several unconventional decisions that affected last night’s broadcast of the 93rd Academy Awards, but perhaps none were as surprising as switching up the order that the awards were handed out. Chadwick Boseman was the heavy favorite to posthumously win Best Actor for his outstanding performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher, and Jesse Collins decided to announce the Best Actor category last, which would have presumably ended the evening on a bittersweet but poignant note. But it didn’t quite work out that way: Anthony Hopkins won for his work in The Father, and since Hopkins wasn’t there to receive the award in person, the show came to an abrupt and confusing end.
Now an ABC executive has commented on the chaos of the Oscars 2021 ending, citing Soderbergh and company’s “calculated risk” of shifting the categories. Plus, he sounded off about that unexpected dance from Glenn Close and how the Oscar Trivia segment was originally supposed to be a karaoke segment.
That Chaotic Ending
Variety caught up with ABC’s Rob Mills, the executive VP of unscripted and alternative entertainment at Walt Disney Television, to talk about last night’s ceremony, including the decision to switch things up throughout the telecast. As Mills pointed out, “it wasn’t just the final categories – the whole show was mixed up.” That was purposeful, he says, in order to give the audience a feeling of “Wow, I really don’t know what’s coming next.”
That certainly happened in the show’s final minutes, when Hopkins ended up pulling out a win for Best Actor, despite not even being in attendance in Los Angeles or any of the remote filming locations. (His The Father co-star Olivia Colman was reportedly supposed to accept the award on his behalf.)
“It was not meant to end on somebody who was not present,” Mills said of that shocking moment. “It was a calculated risk, that I think still paid off because everybody was talking about it. Similarly, nobody wants the wrong envelope to happen, like it did three years ago, but everyone was talking about it. I think some people thought maybe they missed some awards. ‘Why is best picture early?’ or, ‘What’s happening, this is crazy,’ almost like, ‘How can this possibly happen? Best picture has to end it!’ Some people were upset, some people loved it and that was really the point that there was no apathy.”
We Almost Had Oscars Karaoke; Glenn Close’s “Da Butt” Dance Surprised Everyone
During one of Frances McDormand’s speeches, she joked about wanting a karaoke to happen on stage. Elsewhere in that Variety interview, Mills mentioned that the idea was being actually seriously considered by the producers. “There was talk of a karaoke bit that couldn’t happen just because of microphones and things like that, you couldn’t do it,” he said. “I think that’s what morphed into the Oscar trivia bit, which ended up being for the best, obviously.”
That segment led to the viral moment of Glenn Close shouting out “Da Butt” and memorably standing up to shake her ass in the aisle. As expected, the “Da Butt” back and forth between Close and Lil Rel Howery was scripted, but it turns out the dance was an impromptu thing. “It was certainly something nobody expected,” Mills said. “I mean, that was not in any rehearsal of it or anything. I think that, again, shows that she’s sort of game for anything.”
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