Delivering a great Oscar acceptance speech takes a bit of magic, and the winner just needs to strike the right balance between magic and humility.
However, the greatest speeches are often remembered as ending in disaster.
Over the years, many actors were booed, pitied or laughed at for their podium faux pas. Some speeches are too saccharine, others too long. They are the worst when only one actor thinks of themselves.
Despite Frances McDormand’s powerful speech about Hollywood’s gender inequality a few years back, attempts to inject the ceremony with political messages have not always been handled so well. The history of the Oscars is full of the uncomfortable silences and jumps that have always greeted political jokes and clumsy protests.
As the clock counts down to the 94th awards ceremony, all the nominees will be hoping to take home a statue. But more than that, if they win, they’ll be expected to accept the award with grace and nostalgia – or else they risk falling into the ranks of these 10 who have gone over the top.
Sally Field for Places in the Heart
Sally Field set the bar high for self-congratulation with her famous Best Actress acceptance speech in 1985. She is often misquoted because “I like me, you like me a lot,” Field said matter-of-factly. : “I can’t deny that you like me , now, you like me!” It was clear how people felt about her and the phrase would last in the public memory longer than most of her films. Fortunately the of course, Field saw the funny side of things, repeating the line in a commercial for Charles Schwab bank in 2000.
Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love
Gwyneth Paltrow’s glowing acceptance speech for Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love in 1998 is often held up as the epitome of awards season schmaltz. On the verge of tears from the start, Paltrow shook with emotion as she waded her way through a long list of collaborators and loved ones. The full-blown sentimentality of the six left some viewers doubting their sincerity. Others felt sorry for Paltrow, who clearly couldn’t keep it together.
Old Penn for Mystic River
Sean Penn won his first Best Actor award in 2004, and opened with a joke about Iraq’s missing WMDs. The quip was met with stunned silence, with the audience remaining silent as Penn went on to thank a long and scattered list of collaborators. At least he remembered to give credit to Robin Wright, his then wife – a reference he didn’t forget five years later when he won again on Milk.
Sam Smith for Spectre
Sam Smith caused a stir when they accepted their award for Best Original Song “Writing’s On the Wall”, which they co-wrote with Jimmy Napes for the 2016 Bond flick. Smith, who have since announced their decision to use use gender neutral pronouns. , later admitted they were drunk when they made the erroneous claim that “no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar” before. The crooner misinterpreted a fact given to them by Sir Ian McKellen, who was specifically referring to the acting categories. In fact, Elton John and Stephen Sondheim are previous winners in the Best Song category alone. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Milk in 2009, quickly called Smith out for her mistake. The pop singer later apologized.
Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
Anne Hathaway was considered the inevitable winner of Best Supporting Actress in 2012. However, in the run-up to the Oscars, the actress’ appeal began to wane thanks to her controversial weight loss comments, and her admission that she called out as she performed on screen. As he accepted the award, Hathaway began talking excitedly “it came true” – a mawkish gesture that epigraphed a speech that many viewers found unsurprised and overly intelligent.
Jack Palance for City Slickers
Jack Palance was 73 years old when he accepted the award for Best Supporting Actor in 1992. After expressing the producers’ supposed concern about his age, he dropped to the floor and started doing push-ups -armed. Although the crowd was laughing, he looked ridiculous, and the jokes that followed did little to help him. To his credit, Palance would continue to act for more than a decade afterwards.
Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey’s journey from average rom-com star to Hollywood A-lister – known as “the McConaissance” – peaked in 2014 when the Dazed and Confused star collected the Best Actor award for his charismatic turn in Jean-Marc Vallée’s film . McConaughey began by thanking God, going on to talk about his “hero” – someone he has to “treat.” Turns out, McConaughey was talking about himself in ten years. Even falling into his sentence “okay, okay, okay” was not enough to tie up the strange and egotistical speech that left the audience.
Roberto Benigni for Life is beautiful
Although English may not be Roberto Benigni’s first language, some of the phrases he used during his acceptance speech in 1999 are unaccounted for. After beating Hollywood megastar Tom Hanks, who was nominated for Saving Private Ryan, the eccentric Italian gave an animated speech, which included the strange line: “I want to be Jupiter and kidnap everyone and lie down in the firmament making love to everyone.”
Melissa Leo for the Fighter
After building a respected career as a character actress, Melissa Leo finally gained mainstream recognition when she won Best Supporting Actress in 2010, at the age of 50. Leo had personally financed Hollywood commercials for her Oscar campaign. And although they were working on traffic, her speech did not follow. She began dating 94-year-old Kirk Douglas, before accidentally deploying an F-bomb and gushing thanks to the Academy. To top it off, Leo left the stage limping, using Douglas’ walking stick.
George C Scott for Patton
In 1971, George C Scott was the first actor ever to turn down an Oscar. Writing to the Academy, Scott said he objected to the notion that actors were competing with each other, calling the entire ceremony a “meat parade.” Producer Frank McCarthy, who accepted the award in Scott’s absence, apparently missed the memo and gave a speech praising the Academy lavishly.
You can read the full list of Oscar 2022 nominations here.