Although Sunday’s 87th annual Academy awards seemed to pass off without any majorly embarrassing incident befalling an unfortunate actor or host, the awards show has had its fair share of cringeworthy moments over the years. A lot of people think that the Oscars ceremony has become increasingly scripted, no amount of planning, practice and rehearsing can remove the threat of something unexpected happening on the big night.
Some of the most embarrassing moments come across as funny to the audience, but others just make viewers cringe. But in either case, it’s not always as easy as you’d think to get over a messed up acceptance speech or a poorly judged introductory performance.
One thing that has been mentioned a lot when talking about the most embarrassing moments of the Oscars is the odd fact that, for people who are in a profession where they have to get their lines just right, there have been so many instances of bad or rambling speeches. Maybe it can be put down to the fact that the actors and actresses are, so to speak, playing themselves rather than a character. Whatever the reason, it has lead to a strict time limit of 45 seconds being imposed for victory speeches. Looking back over the history of the Oscars, here are 10 of the most embarrassing moments at the Academy Awards from the past eight decades.
10) Will Rogers Confuses The Nominees In 1934
Will Rogers, who was hosting the sixth Academy Awards ceremony in 1934, could never have imagined that the seemingly harmless phrase “Come up and get it Frank” which he used to introduce the best director award, would trigger one of the most embarrassing moments in Oscar history. But unfortunately for him, there were two Franks in the running for best director that year: Frank Capra for Lady For A Day, and Frank Lloyd for Cavalcade. Capra was on stage by the time he realized that it was in fact Lloyd who had been given the award, leaving him with a long walk back to his seat. Capra later remarked that it was “the longest crawl in history.”
9) The Streaker
At the 46th Oscars in 1974, the show was stolen by Robert Opel, a photographer and gay rights activist who appeared on the stage just prior to the announcing of the best picture movie. Beyond the surprise at a naked man running across the stage, the incident also became part of Hollywood folklore because of the response of host David Niven, who cleverly commented, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?” The streaking episode only gained in notoriety following the fate of Opel himself. He became something of a celebrity overnight, and was ultimately able to set up an art gallery in San Francisco. But a year later, he was tragically murdered by two men who entered the gallery demanding drugs and money.
8) Sally Field’s 1985 Acceptance Speech
Sally Field’s reaction to her second Oscar, won for Places In The Heart, went down in history as one of the most embarrassing moments, as she struggled to contain her elation during her acceptance speech. The best known moment came when she remarked “you like me, right now, you like me.” For years afterwards, her speech was ridiculed as an example of how not to accept an award, and of how an actress can lose her cool in the moment of victory. So well-known was the episode that for a time, the expression Sally Field moment was common in pop culture as a reference to witnessing someone losing their composure in public.
7) Rob Lowe Sings Snow White
The opening act of the 61st Oscars in 1989, turned to disaster and was roundly condemned by most present. The scene of Snow White going around greeting many of the day’s leading stars was very ‘over the top’, and when it came to a duet on stage with Lowe, who had been hired to play prince charming, he struggled to keep in key. The whole thing lasted 15 minutes, with the New York Times review describing it as having “earned a permanent place in the annals of Oscar embarrassments.” A total of 17 leading Hollywood personalities signed an open letter in protest, stating that the performance was so bad it had brought the ceremony into disrepute, and Disney launched a lawsuit over the use of its Snow White trademark.
6) James Cameron’s Titanic Acceptance Speech
James Cameron’s remarks following his Oscar victory for Titanic, possibly ranks among some of the most tasteless at the Academy Awards. After calling on the audience members to hold a moment of silence in memory of the more than 1,000 victims who perished when the ship sank in 1912 after colliding with an iceberg, he followed this up by immediately telling everyone to party until dawn. Although he tried to defend his comments afterwards, he later accepted that he had made “a fool of myself” when he spoke to an interviewer in 2010. During the same interview, he expressed doubts as to whether he would be a welcome presence at the ceremony with his film Avatar, which was nominated for best picture that year.
5) Gwyneth Paltrow’s Shakespeare In Love Acceptance Speech
Most people are willing to accept a bit of emotion during an acceptance speech. After all, winning an Oscar is a major achievement, arguably the pinnacle of an actor’s career. However, Paltrow’s display in 1999, was considered by most to be taking this allowance a bit too far. She broke out into several tearful outbursts during her few minutes on the stage, proceeding to mention a long list of family members who she wished to thank for her achievement. Her performance triggered a number of unfriendly reactions, and she certainly gained few fans following her appearance that year.
4) Adrien Brody Kisses Halle Berry
Adrien Brody’s Oscar, won for his 2002 part in The Pianist, came as something of a surprise. But even more shocking was his excited response as he rushed on stage and planted a kiss on the lips of host Halle Berry. Turning to the audience to deliver his speech, he opened by saying, “Bet you didn’t know that was in the gift bag.” Playing on the incident the following year, when he appeared on stage to present the award for best actress, he sprayed his mouth with mouth spray before reading out the lucky winner for 2004.
3) Chris Rock’s Jude Law Joke
Among the list of failed jokes at the Academy Awards, Rock’s opening quip about British actor Jude Law, in 2005, was generally acknowledged to have received the coldest response from the stars present. Even though it was nothing out of the ordinary for Rock’s style to make fun of Law’s talents, his questioning of why he was appearing in so many films wasn’t taken well by other actors. Sean Penn, who was presenting an award later in the show, made a point of defending Law’s abilities by saying that he was one of the greatest actors in Hollywood. Rock commented afterwards that he and Penn had spoken about the incident, but it was one of the evening’s less comfortable moments. Otherwise, Rock seemed to win over the audience with his hosting, even poking fun at himself in one of his trademark jokes.
2) Melissa Leo’s “F” Moment
Melissa Leo won a place in the limelight at the 2011 ceremony, when she secured the award for Best Supporting actress for her performance in The Fighter. But it was her inadvertent use of the “f” word during her acceptance speech that ultimately made the headlines. Reports of her slip-up said that she seemed overwhelmed by the occasion, and she later admitted that she had made a mistake when she had stated that watching Kate Winslet’s performance had made it seem “so f***ing easy.” She told journalists that she was sorry if she had offended anyone and that it was a “very inappropriate place” to have used that word.
1) James Franco’s Hosting In 2011
2011 was also the year when actor Franco co-hosted the awards with Anne Hathaway and was widely criticized for his dull display. Commentators complained that he had lacked engagement with the show and with Hathaway, who even remarked afterwards that she had been disappointed by his lacklustre effort. The absence of any enthusiasm was apparently also recognised by the producers of the show, who around halfway into the awards tried to break up Franco’s appearances by always having Hathaway join him on stage, and by playing a video of the late Bob Hope in between awards rather than asking Franco to return to the stage. Franco also came in for much criticism because he seemed lively enough backstage, updating his Twitter account virtually continuously throughout the show.
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