Pop Culture

Backstage at the Oscars

When you win an Oscar you don’t just get a trophy — you also get a torn piece of paper.

As Sofia Coppola was being swept away from the stage after winning best original screenplay for “Lost in Translation,” presenter Susan Sarandon hurried after her, yelling, “Sofia! Sofia!”

Coppola stopped and Sarandon stuffed the envelope containing her name into her hand. “Keep this,” said Sarandon, a former Oscar winner. “You’ll want to frame that.”

Nicole Kidman, who presented the lead actor award to Sean Penn for “Mystic River,” did the same favor for him.

“Sean! Sean!” shouted Kidman, also a previous Oscar winner. “Take that.”

She slipped the envelope into his hand and he thanked her with a kiss on the cheek.

There is a dazed expression shared by most Oscar winners when they walk away from millions of viewers and back into reality.

Backstage frenzyTim Robbins, who collected the supporting actor trophy Sunday for “Mystic River,” strolled backstage with an awed look in his eyes and began wandering the wrong way as his handlers tried to herd him down a walkway to the press room.

“Oh,” he exclaimed as they grabbed him, snapping back to attention. He smiled. “I just wanted to go home.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones, who presented the trophy to Robbins, kissed him and offered congratulations. Then, to the astonishment of everyone within earshot, she clutched at the back of her crimson gown and said, “I need to get this thing off.”

Even Robbins’ eyes widened.

Zeta-Jones turned around, exposing the uncomfortable looking remote microphone pack wedged between her back and the gown. “I feel like a robot with this on,” she said.

Then it made sense.

Robin Williams, who presented the feature animated film award to “Finding Nemo,” crossed paths with Renee Zellweger, who was wearing a white ball gown tied in the back with great jagged plumes of fabric.

After complimenting her on her outfit, Williams quipped, “be careful you don’t put an eye out on the back part.”

Then Williams continued walking with Andrew Stanton, the “Finding Nemo” co-writer and director, who claimed the animated trophy. They walked from the glamorous stage to the drapery-cloaked green room and then down a gritty, grimy hallway, toward waiting reporters and photographers.

“Geez, it gets fancier as you go,” Stanton said as he vanished around a corner.

Dazed but happyAs Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller rehearsed lines for a comedy bit during their presentation of the animated short category, Zellweger reseated herself in the audience in time to collect a supporting actress award for “Cold Mountain.”

She returned to the backstage area, clutching her trophy and bearing that dazed look.

How did she feel?

Zellweger took a long time to answer.

“I ... don’t ... know,” she said as her picture was taken. She raised her hand above her head and waved it. “I feel like I’m floating here, somewhere.”

Robbins passed by again, and the two stopped to share a few whispered words that they concluded with a toast of sorts — clinking the golden heads of their Oscars together.

Crystal preps for the big night
Hours earlier, 10 minutes before showtime, host Billy Crystal emerged from his dressing room, sipping a glass of water with lemon. He grouped his writers together in a circle. They put their hands in the middle and wished each other a good show before breaking apart.

Crystal paced backstage in the shadows, preparing for his monologue by blowing air between his lips and making a “yo-yyy, yo-yyy” sound to work his vocal cords.

With one minute left to go, he watched a TV screen showing “Access Hollywood” commentator Billy Bush grabbing celebrities out of their seats for interviews in ABC’s preshow telecast.

“This is the most annoying man in show business,” Crystal said to no one in particular.

He shared a few whispered words with Sean Connery, who then went onstage to introduce the telecast. Next came Crystal’s videotaped comedy montage, featuring the host doing everything from riding Seabiscuit to clowning as wicked Gollum.

The live audience of thousands sat to Crystal’s left laughing, and millions around the world watched on television.

Crystal didn’t crack a smile.

Seconds later he was onstage, finally smiling, greeting the waves of applause.