Stars' acceptance speeches are mini-performances

Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:35pm EST
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By Gregg Kilday

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The acceptance speech is the ultimate Hollywood audition.

As the winners are invited to the podium ("But I didn't expect this; I have nothing prepared") and handed their trophies ("It's so heavy!"), all acceptance speeches do risk blurring into one ("And most of all I want to thank my husband/wife/partner-in-life; and to my kids watching at home, you can go to bed now").

But for those at the red-hot center of all the frenzy -- the film actors and actresses in the hunt for ultimate validation at the Oscars -- acceptance speeches inevitably are mini-performances that can serve a number of purposes.

The acceptance speech can introduce a performer from abroad, like Christoph Waltz from "Inglourious Basterds," to both the industry and the wider moviegoing public; it can highlight a different aspect of a performer's personality, as is the case this year with Mo'Nique, the sitcom star and stand-up comedian who roughs up her image in "Precious" only to glamorously re-emerge on the awards circuit; or it can serve to confirm audiences' predisposition toward such well-liked players as Sandra Bullock or Jeff Bridges.

The biggest challenge for the front-runners is keeping it all seemingly fresh and in-the-moment. During the annual Academy Awards nominees luncheon, Oscar show producers inevitably urge the eventual winners to keep it spontaneous: Brief and emotional thank-yous work best. Avoid those written list of agents, managers, publicists, designers, child-care providers and soothsayers.

But keeping it spontaneous at the Oscars is a lot easier for the rare dark-horse candidate, who truly never expected to win. Most infamous example: Marisa Tomei's upset in 1992 for "My Cousin Vinny," when she beat out Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave and Miranda Richardson.

For the anointed -- who've already been invited to the winner's circle at the Critics Choice Awards, the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards -- keeping it real can be a challenge. So how are this seasons favored four doing?

The Austria-born Waltz was pushed onto the international film stage when his seductive turn as Col. Hans Landa in "Basterds" won him acting honors at Cannes. The kudos have been coming ever since.   Continued...

<p>A monitor message gives instructions as actor Josh Brolin gives his acceptance speech for Outstanding Cast of a Motion Picture for "No Country for Old Men" at the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 27, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>