Along with winning an Oscar comes a unique memento — the torn white envelope with the winner’s name inside.
A series of intimate moments played out Sunday night as presenters slipped envelopes into winners’ hands backstage. The informal presentations, outside the spotlight and away from the cameras, have become something of an Oscar tradition.
Supporting actor winner Morgan Freeman was chased by presenter Renee Zellweger.
“Mr. Freeman, I think you should keep this,” she said, sliding the envelope containing his name into his hand.
“Congratulations,” said Zellweger, an Oscar winner last year, as she hugged the newest member of the exclusive club.
Cate Blanchett, who won supporting actress for “The Aviator,” wandered down the hall with presenter Tim Robbins and asked him, “Was it really my name?”
He laughed and assured her that her name was in the envelope he carried.
The scene was similar last year, when presenter Susan Sarandon stuffed an envelope into the hands of Sofia Coppola, and Nicole Kidman did the same for Sean Penn.
And there were moments of jubilation as one smiling winner after another paraded off the Academy Award stage.
When Freeman emerged into the crowded backstage hallway, he was greeted by hearty applause from bystanders and high-fives from members of the American Boychoir, waiting to take the stage with R&B star Beyonce.
Freeman rounded a corner to begin his path along the “winner’s walk” and nearly collided with two-time nominee Jamie Foxx. The men shared a silent embrace, and Freeman asked Foxx, “Did I talk enough?”
Foxx bowed and said, “Man, it was beautiful.”
Back in the wings, Beyonce closed her eyes and softly sang the French lyrics to the first nominated song, “Look To Your Path,” as the crowd laughed at presenter Robin Williams.
The jovial mood began well before showtime, with host Chris Rock laughing it up outside his dressing room with Adam Sandler.
“Come on, got to have some fun,” Rock said.
“I’m psyched to be out there with you,” Sandler responded.
Rock had yet to don his tuxedo when his wife arrived, stepping daintily down the hallway in a gown with a long train. “OK, clean up, wife’s here,” Oscar producer Gil Cates announced to Rock and his posse of writers.
Down the hall, the elevator doors slid open. A white-gloved man carefully steered a double-deck cart carrying gold Oscar statues into the wings of the Kodak Theatre. Two accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers arrived with the set of winners envelopes in briefcases.
Robin Williams turned the smoking area outside the green room into a comedy club. He grabbed Melanie Griffith’s cane (she has a broken foot) and proclaimed it a “peace pipe.” Best actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio laughed and pulled out a cigarette, lighting up and rocking nervously back and forth.
Just after a tuxedo-clad man finished vacuuming the carpet in the hallway, Beyonce’s boyfriend, Jay-Z, walked by carrying a glass of champagne.
At one point, the Oscars resembled the Grammys when Beyonce, Josh Groban, Prince and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs converged in the wings.
Beyonce enveloped the diminutive Prince in a hug and whispered, “Are you having a party tonight?
“Yes,” the singer murmured.
“I hope we can come,” she replied.