Michael Moore defends his Oscar speech. The political filmmaker tells EW.com why the only people who looked bad Sunday night were the ones who booed him
by Gillian Flynn
Calling Bush a “fictitious president” who's unleashed a “war for fictitious reasons” in Iraq, Michael Moore — newly minted Oscar winner for Best Documentary — let loose a sparky speech Sunday night that was promptly spiked with audience boos. Thus, the “Bowling for Columbine” director quickly (and predictably) became the most controversial figure of the 2003 Oscars. Here, Moore speaks with EW.com about the ensuing storm.
- Did you know what you were going to say when you got up to the podium?
- I felt I had to say something about Bush and the war; it wasn't out of place because that's what my film deals with — the American culture of violence and why we're such a violent people. It's about why and how our government manipulates us with fear. Specifically, the film [deals with] the Bush Administration manipulating people with fear to enact their agenda and to get money for war. So I thought whatever I'd say if I won would be along those lines because it was appropriate to the theme of the movie.
- You got a standing ovation as you walked up, then you began your speech and promptly got booed. Were you surprised?
- It was two different groups of people. You can look at a tape of the show — there's nobody booing on the main floor. Do you think they're that flaky in Hollywood that I was the first award they stood for — the first standing ovation — and within 10 seconds they decided to change their minds? The same people who'd voted for this film?
- So where were the boos coming from?
- The first shouts were “No, no!” and it was almost like the person was miked. It was so loud. But it was so weird because I was looking at the audience, and they were all either sitting there nodding, smiling, applauding, or just listening. I have friends and family who were in the balcony, and they said the first sounds didn't come up from up there, it came through the amplified loud-speaker system in the auditorium. The L.A. Times said stagehands joined in.
- Is that what it sounded like to you — an amplification?
- It was so loud my wife, who was standing next to me, couldn't hear what I was saying. One of my buddies who worked on the film and was up on the top balcony said there was a pocket of people there, and I hadn't finished my first sentence and, like, on cue, they just started [booing] up there. First the “No! No!” going through the sound system and then the [booing] up there. Then the people in the balcony who were supportive of what I was saying started booing the booers. They were shouting at them to shut up! So now it's a cacophony of booing, making it sound much worse than it was.
- Looking at the main level, which had given you that standing ovation, they were stock-still once your speech and the booing began.
- I think they wanted to hear what I was saying. In the cutaways — I've watched it now — you see Martin Scorsese starting to applaud, Ed Harris is applauding, a number of them are actually applauding.
- A few. Overall you were kind of left hanging.
- I think they were [all] kind of stunned by the moment. I don't expect them as actors, as celebrities, to get up there and [make a statement]. It often seems awkward, even to me.
- But because you're a political filmmaker you can?
- That's what I do for a living. I make political documentaries. If I was upset about anything it was that the band drowned out my last line there.
- Which was?
- Which was: Any time you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, you're not long for the White House.
- What do you think of the people who booed you?
- Isn't that why this is such a great country? Everyone can speak their mind. It's a little disconcerting that I get 45 seconds to have my piece and there are those who would try to deny me my right to speak. The only people who looked bad here are the people who want to deny someone 45 seconds of free speech. The director of the show had told all the nominees those were our 45 seconds and it was completely up to us what we want to say and do. We were not threatened in any way to stick to any kind of a script.
- Did you consider an alternate version?
- The other road I would have gone down is: “We've taught the children of Columbine an important lesson this week — that violence is an acceptable method to resolve a conflict.” That really bothers me. Sometimes violence is unfortunately necessary in self-defense, but what do you call this invasion of Iraq? [If you were to] randomly ask people, “Do you believe Saddam Hussein is going to kill you this month?” [would they say, “Yes”?] Most people were raised with a certain set of Judeo-Christian values that say you don't have the right to take another person's life unless it's in self-defense. I have very strong personal beliefs about this, and how can I stop being that person because I walk into the Kodak Theatre? On the other hand, I'm very respectful when I'm a guest in someone's house — that's the way I was raised. So I put a tux on, I didn't wear a baseball cap, I said what my conscience told me to say and it related in an appropriate way to the message of my film. How wrong would it have been if I'd stood up there and thanked my agent and my lawyer and the designer who gave me the tuxedo? And how could I live with myself?
- What are you doing next?
- A film tentatively titled “Fahrenheit 9/11.” It's about the country since 9/11 and how I believe that event is being used as a cover for the Bush Administration to enact policies that aren't in the best interests of the American people. It's about what led to 9/11 and what's happened since. I live in New York City, so we've all been affected by this and I'm not over it either. We knew somebody on one of the flights who died, and the firemen on our block. So I don't want whatever the important lessons are that we need to learn from this to fade away. I certainly don't like those who died that day being dishonored and being used to pass laws so they can force librarians to give up their reading lists.
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By mentioning his name, this becomes the third post in a row in which Matt is involved. At least he didn’t pick the topic this time…
In more entertaining (for me) news, I managed to expand the watermarking process in my gallery to include tasteful copyright notices under each thumbnail.
I used to have a faux bumper sticker in my cubicle that said “I’d rather be programming”. There was a reason for that, and it wasn’t because I disliked my job. I simply love to code.
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I didn’t want to google for this again.
1 platoon = 24 soldiers
1 company = 3 platoons
1 battalion = 3 companies
1 brigade = 3 battalions
1 division = 3 brigades
1 corps = 3 divisions
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You might think that this post should be filed under “wallowing”, but in reality, I do not mourn the TiVO as much as I am eager to see the DirecTiVO in action, instead of inactive. Dual tuners. I should mention FreeVO, though, because I find the FreeVO concept very interesting.
I should make Matt Hotujec blog for me. He always finds the wheat amongst the chaff.
In times like these, it is very important to keep track of what is
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It might just piss you off, but maybe you should be pissed off, and maybe not at the author of this article. He's vitriolic, to say the least, but if you can read it without being offended, it might give you something to think about.
Open Letter to America from a Canadian (August 7, 2002)
Okay, here's the other one, for comparison:
“The Americans” by Gordon Sinclair (1973)
I think I'd rather be happy and jolly reading the Gordon Sinclair article, but that might just be deluding myself. Maybe I shouldn't post either.
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Except me. I'm locked into an insomnia swing set. It's like one of those magnetic desktop swinging things, like seem like they're about to pick a direction but then suddenly spin around in a crazy whirlwind.
Not that I've been spinning around much. Mostly I've been programming and watching CNN, because all the Iraq news is new at 3AM. It's the biggest train wreck that I have ever seen. I have already discussed the war at length, and I think that I will not bore you again with that today.
I picked my mom up at work today, and in return I got a six pack of delicious Summit Pale Ale. Now that's service. I showed her my Mardi Gras photos, and she reminded me that I have some really cool shots in there. If you haven't already, please check it out.
My mom's husband, John, showed me his new PC mastering studio. He's using Wavelab, and it's pretty sweet. He has officially gone from confirmed luddite to freaky nerd hacker guy. He replaced the cooling fan on his video card with about 60 pounds of copper heat sink. It's so wrong, and yet so very right. I'm so proud of him.
Back in the day- late in 2001- John and my mom wanted a PC. They got a free used PC from John's work. I pulled that PC apart and used a few bits from it to build a working PC for him. At that time John and my mom had a budget of whatever money I could contribute. Within a year they were getting high speed internet service and buying laptops. Now I can't visit without spending an hour on their PC - as they show me things!
So tomorrow is another job interview. Perhaps “job interview” is too strong a word, since I'm going to a temp agency to sign up and take a battery of tests. ProStaff hasn't been making with the jobs, so I'm trying a few others.
Four years ago, when I temped, I would finish a job and I'd already be taking calls for the next one. What happened? Argh. I just want to work, and it's making me crazy.
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Michael Moore blasts U.S. war
On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan from Canada, I'd like to thank the Academy for this. I have invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to — they're here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or fictition of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up. Thank you very much. –Michael Moore (2003 Oscars)
At this point I don't even care if he was right or not. Anyone who was surprised by what he said doesn't understand his methods of operation, which are to say the most inappropriate and uncomfortable thing possible to make a point. He received an Oscar for those very same methods. You can't applaud him and then rebuke him in the same breath. Well, actually you can, because that's your right to do so. I believe in the everyone's right to speak their mind, especially if it is really funny, really important or both.
It was so sweet backstage, you should have seen it. The Teamsters were helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo. –Steve Martin (2003 Oscars)
I think that Steve Martin summed up my feelings best- that Moore had just dealt himself a difficult hand. Whatever you say, I think that you should have to deal with the consequences. The Teamsters don't have the right to rough someone up, but they could boo all they want, show up at Moore's home and confront him with photos of Saddam's atrocities, camp out at Moore's office asking for interviews- well, you know, all the stones that Michael Moore is throwing at other people's glass houses.
Backstage at the Oscars, Moore was asked why he made the remarks. Moore answered: “I'm an American.”
“Is that all?” a reporter asked.
“Oh, that's a lot,” Moore answered.
“What was the lesson that we taught children of Columbine this week? … That violence is an acceptable means to resolve a conflict,” Moore said.
“I'm an American, and you don't leave your citizenship when you enter the doors of the Kodak Theatre. What's great about this country is that you can speak your mind,” he said.
He said that, far from being appalled, many people in the audience stood up to applaud him.
“I say tonight I put America in a good light,” he said praising the decision to push ahead with the Oscars despite the war raging in the Middle East.
“I showed how vital it is to have free speech in our country and all Americans have the right to stand up for what they believe in,” he said.
Moore told reporters: “Don't report that there was split decision in the hall because five loud people booed.”
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: we jumped into this war too quickly, and we should have waited for the United Nations. Moore's message is to think very hard about our actions. When Moore thinks very hard he doesn't see war. When I think very hard I see that we are running headlong into a tar pit. I've already heard Iraq compared to Southeast Asia. I'm prepared to be wrong. I'd prefer to be wrong on this, but I'm not in charge of that.
I wish our troops health, safety and a speedy return.
If Frida was alive, she would be on our side, against war. –Gael Garcia Bernal (2003 Oscars)
[I dedicate this award to] all the people that are raising their voices in favor of peace, respect of human rights, democracy and international legality, all of which are essential qualities to live. –Pedro Almodovar (2003 Oscars)
It fills me with great joy but I am also filled with a lot of sadness tonight, because I am accepting an award at such a sad time. My experiences in making this film made me very aware of the sadness and dehumanization of people in times of war and the repercussions of war. Whatever you believe in, whether it's God or Allah, let's pray for a peaceful and swift resolution and may he watch over you. –Adrien Brody (2003 Oscars)
In light of all the troubles in this world. I wish us all peace. –Chris Cooper (2003 Oscars)
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Another sleepless night- not because I'm worried about things like jobs and war, but more because I'm just wide awake. I'm watching the war coverage on CNN.
Okay, I'm not a saint. I enjoy watching stuff blow up. Case(s) in point:
I understand that fireworks are really different from war.
Nonetheless, I'm enjoying watching Marines dump high explosives into unmanned enemy tanks. I'm enjoying watching Marines fire .50 caliber machine guns into abandoned Iraqi trucks. Wow! Cool!
Does that make me a bad person? I don't want people to die, and the US went in too soon, like a hotshot in a Navy pilot movie. This looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I'm not interested in watching it- except that I can't stop watching it.
We should have waited for the UN. This is crazy and scary. I fear retribution from terrorist groups who consider the US an imperialist country. I love my country, and as far as I know we an imperialist (anymore).
Even if we suppose that we are in the right in our actions, are we being a good world citizen by ignoring the wishes of our friends and neighbors?
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It's all about the hotbuggy.
Imagine it with me: you, with a go-kart on dirt. You know you want it. You do.
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