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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 06:56 GMT
Martin cheers muted show
By the BBC's Ben Sutherland

Steve Martin
Martin touched on the war in his remarks
Presenting the Academy Awards for the second time, Steve Martin faced the task of bringing humour to an Oscars whose build-up had been greatly overshadowed by the gravity of the world situation.

With so many stars having already expressed their views on the Iraq war beforehand, and large numbers of demonstrators in the streets around the Kodak Theatre, Martin got his first references out of the way quickly.

"You probably noticed there was no fancy red carpet tonight. That'll send them a message," he said, before adding that everyone had asked him to host the awards "except France and Germany".

But then he changed tack with various one-liners aimed at some of the celebrities in the audience, culminating in a brilliant sketch where the camera picked out a series of glamorous actresses that he claimed had promised not to reveal they had slept with him.

Michael Moore
Moore's acceptance speech received both boos and cheers
And for a while, it seemed as though Martin's sarcastic opening remark - "well, I'm glad they've cut back on the glitz" - would be the most telling statement of the night.

As Chicago began sweeping up all the early awards - and the "all that jazz" theme started to grate - it seemed the message was very much that of the show going on, with the war somewhat in the background.

But all that changed when Michael Moore stepped up to receive the best documentary Oscar for Bowling For Columbine, together with all the other nominees "in solidarity".

"We live in fictitious times," Moore said, and referred to President Bush as "a fictitious president".

The noise in the Kodak - both cheering and booing - reached a crescendo, and the music was swelling and the microphone disappearing into the stage as Moore finished his speech.

Faced with reviving the mood, Martin said: "It was so sweet backstage. The Teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo" - a line that prompted sustained applause.

Anti-war protestors at the Oscars
Protesters demonstrated outside the Kodak Theatre
This was the 75th Academy Awards, but that fact was always going to be overshadowed and this was not the time for spontaneous Hollywood self-congratulation.

Consequently, the celebrations seemed mostly to resemble a muted version of those of five years ago for the 70th anniversary, with a sprinkling of highlight clips and, towards the end, the cramming onto the stage of virtually every Oscar-winning actor and actress still alive.

But there was surprise enough in the event itself, with a number of emotional moments.

Best cinematographer Conrad L Hall's son was in tears as he accepted the Oscar for his late father, while best actor Adrien Brody received a standing ovation after refusing to step down from the stage in order to ask for "a peaceful and swift resolution" to the Iraq war.

Possibly the biggest shock was the naming of Roman Polanski as best director for The Pianist.

Polanski's chances had been virtually written off beforehand because he is unable to enter the US as he still faces charges for underage sex.

Steve Martin quotes:

  • "You probably noticed there was no fancy red carpet tonight. That'll send them a message." (on the war with Iraq.)

  • "Roman Polanski is here - get him." (during the opening speech.)

  • "Tell me whether you think this is fair - they made a great film that everybody liked." (on Miramax's Chicago campaign.)

  • "A lot of people here are wearing Armani - Sean was wearing red lobster." (on Sir Sean Connery's outfit.)

  • "Next year I will be starring in the Sherwin Williams story." (on Frida winning Oscars, two years after Pollock also did so.)

  • "I would do anything to look like him - except exercise and eat right." (on Gael Garcia Bernal.)

  • "Someone I consider a close personal fantasy." (on Julia Roberts.)

  • "Halle Berry is here, whose win last year broke down barriers for unbelievably hot women." (on Halle Berry.)

  • "It really made me think - and for that I will never forgive her." (on Meryl Streep's performance in The Hours.)

  • "When I heard that Richard Gere was not nominated for his great performance in Chicago, I said to myself, 'welcome to my world Richard'." (following on from Richard Gere.)

  • "I handed in a script last year and the studio didn't change one word. The word they didn't change was on page 87." (introducing best adapted screenplay.)

  • "I have so many people to thank tonight, especially Steven Spielberg. Why? Because it can't hurt." (wrapping up the show.)

    Oscar ceremony in quotes
    24 Mar 03 |  Film

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