Steven Soderbergh, one of the producers behind the 2021 Academy Awards, is addressing this year’s controversial decision to change the order of trophies presented at the show.
Speaking with the Los Angeles Times for an interview published Tuesday, the longtime Hollywood director and producer touched on the unexpected choice to place the Best Actress and Best Actor categories last during the broadcast — a slot usually reserved for Best Picture.
“It’s our belief — that I think is not unfounded — that actors’ speeches tend to be more dramatic than producers’ speeches. And so we thought it might be fun to mix it up, especially if people didn’t know that was coming,” said Soderbergh, 58, who served as producer for this year’s show alongside Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher.
He said the shift “was something we were going to do well before the nominations came out,” as they “talked about [it] in January.” (The nominations were announced in March, while the Oscars aired April 25.)
“That was always part of the plan,” Soderbergh shared. “And then when the nominations came out and there was even the possibility that Chadwick [Boseman] could win posthumously, our feeling was if he were to win and his widow were to speak on his behalf, there would be nowhere to go after that. So we stuck with it.”
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For the last category of the night, Anthony Hopkins nabbed the Best Actor trophy over a group of nominees that included the late Boseman, whom many considered the frontrunner in the category following his Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award wins for best actor in a motion picture, drama, for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
“I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early,” Hopkins, 83, said in his acceptance speech on social media after the ceremony, having been asleep in his home country of Wales during the show. “And again, thank you all very much. I really did not expect this. So I feel very privileged and honored.”
During this year’s awards season, Boseman’s wife Simone Ledward Boseman accepted the SAG, Golden Globe, NAACP, Gotham and Critics Choice Awards in his honor.
“If there was even the sliver of a chance that he would win and that his widow would speak, then we were operating under the fact that was the end of the show,” Soderbergh told the Times. “So it wasn’t like we assumed it would, but if there was even a possibility that it would happen, then you have to account for that.”
“That would have been such a shattering moment, that to come back after that would have been just impossible,” he added.
In a recent interview with Variety, ABC’s Rob Mills, executive VP of unscripted and alternative entertainment at Walt Disney Television, explained that the show’s abrupt ending was a “calculated risk” that was “not meant to end on somebody who was not present.”
“[But] I think [it] still paid off because everybody was talking about it,” he continued. “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,” Mills said.