Three times real events challenged the Oscars

Sometimes, however, world events have cast such a large shadow that they cannot be ignored. And while the Hollywood maxim is that the show must go on, in a few instances real-world concerns have crept into the ceremony in ways that have forced organizers to alter its schedule, including the year-long delay. last due to a global pandemic.

The war in Ukraine dominated news cycles and prompted statements of solidarity from members of the film and television industry ahead of the Oscars. Over the years, politics and the Oscars have gone hand in hand, and war has often been part of the backdrop, from World War II – when the actual statuettes were in plaster due to metal shortages – to Vietnam , a tumultuous time that, on various occasions, spilled over into the show.

Yet in the television era, three events particularly stand out: the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981, and the start of the Iraq War in 2003.

In the first two cases, the awards were briefly postponed, and there was talk of doing so in 2003. (The Oscars were delayed another time because of the 1938 floods.)

A look back at each of these events, and the effect they had on the ceremony.

1968: The Assassination of the King

The April 4 civil rights icon’s murder came days before the ceremony, with several of those scheduled to perform or appear – including Sidney Poitier, Louis Armstrong and Diahann Carroll – planning to attend King’s funeral on April 9. April, the day after the broadcast. (Poitier starred in two of that year’s Best Picture nominees, “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”)

Because there was no way for them to arrive in time, the Academy pushed back the ceremony from April 8 to April 10 and canceled its Governors Ball. The organization’s then-president, Gregory Peck, began the telecast by paying tribute to King.

1981: Reagan is shot

Johnny Carson, host of the 1981 Oscars, spoke about the attempted assassination of President Reagan during the telecast opening.

Reagan was actually scheduled to open the ceremony with a segment taped at the White House about the global reach of the Oscars and movies. Many who attended the awards were particularly shaken, having known Reagan from his days as an actor and president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Producers rushed and ultimately opted to postpone the one-day awards (Johnny Carson was that year’s host), with veteran writer Buzz Kohan, who worked on the series, recalling 25 years later. late to the Hollywood Reporter, “Curiously enough, it was Reagan himself who set the tone, telling the doctors in the operating room, ‘Please tell me you’re all Republicans. We thought that if the man who was shot could make a joke about it, he gave us permission to do the same.”

“That old adage ‘The show must go on’ seemed relatively inconsequential,” Carson said as he opened the telecast, saying the president was in “excellent condition” and it was his “expressed wishes” that the producers use his introduction. recorded, which they did.

“Movies are forever,” Reagan said, echoing the show’s theme that year, adding to the laughs, “I myself have been trapped in a movie forever.”

2003: The invasion of Iraq

Michael Moore denounced the American invasion of Iraq while accepting the Oscar for best documentary at the 2003 Oscars.
The United States invaded Iraq days before the broadcast, fueling discussion about whether the awards should be postponed. On the eve of the awards show, Oscar producer Gil Cates told the Los Angeles Times, “Of the 11 shows I’ve produced, this is the hardest I’ve done.”

The Times described the days leading up to the awards as “one of the strangest and most stressful weeks in Oscars history”. The show continued, but the red carpet was eliminated along with temporary bleachers for fans to watch the star arrivals.

Additional controversy arose during the show when Michael Moore accepted his Best Documentary Oscar for “Bowling for Columbine”. Moore denounced the war by calling President George W. Bush a “fictional president” and saying “Shame on you, Mr. Bush,” which sparked boos from the crowd and caused the filmmaker to leave the stage.

Fifteen years later, receiving a lifetime achievement honor at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, Moore took the opportunity to end his speech, which ended with him encouraging people to “pick up a camera and fight the power , make your voice heard and stop this”. senseless war.”


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