Many Oscar acceptance speeches are tedious affairs, with the award recipients rattling off a long list of thank yous and blustering and muttering along as the orchestra reaches a crescendo in an attempt to play them off the stage. However, not all acceptance speeches are trapped in the realm of self-indulgent, obnoxious and incoherent – many speeches break the mould and excite the live and television audience in varied and interesting ways.
Here’s a sample of some of the most controversial, strangest and most entertaining Oscar acceptance speeches from actors:
Jack Palance – 1992 Academy Awards
While many Oscar acceptance speeches play is safe and try not to offend, Jack Palance chose to start off his award for Best Supporting Actor for City Slickers by stating: “Billy Crystal (the Awards host and his co-star) – I crap bigger than him”. After that ice-breaker, 73-year-old Palance proceeded to demonstrate that his age was no barrier to his vitality as an actor by performing a series of one-armed push-ups in the middle of his speech.
Michael Moore – 2003 Academy Awards
While it’s almost become fashionable in recent times for winners to throw in a political statement in their acceptance speech, documentary Michael Moore took political activism to another level when he won Best Documentary Feature for Bowling for Columbine. About 30 seconds into his speech, he voiced his displeasure at the recent decision by the US government to invade Iraq stating
“We like non-fiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious President. We — 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 the fictitious [sic] of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you.”
His harsh words drew contrasting reactions from the audience, with some loudly booing him while some loudly cheered him.
Roberto Benigni –1999 Academy Awards
The rather eccentric director and actor Roberto Benigni gave what is undoubtedly one of the most colourful Oscar acceptance speeches ever when his film Life is Beautiful won Best Foreign Language Film, as he gleefully stood up on the chairs and walked over them to receive his award on stage. After giving a speech punctuated by his thick Italian accent, he then went into overdrive when he won Best Actor for the same film, stating “This is a terrible mistake cause I used up all my English and “I would like to be Jupiter, and kidnap everybody, and lie down in the firmament making love to everybody.”
Marlon Brando – 1973 Academy Awards
Screen icon Marlon Brando indirectly produced one of the strangest Oscar acceptance speeches ever when he won Best Actor for his portrayal of Don Corleone in the Godfather. He decided to boycott the ceremony, but instead of simply having the presenters accept the award on his behalf (a common practice when winners can’t attend the awards) he instead sent a representative named Sacheen Littlefeather , who identified herself as the president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee. Littlefeather relayed a message on Brando’s behalf, stating that his reasons for declining the award was to protest “the treatment of American Indians, today, by the film industry … and on television and movie reruns.”
Cuba Gooding Jr. – 1997 Academy Awards
Cuba Gooding Jr. couldn’t contain his excitement when he won Best Supporting Actor for Jerry Maguire, mirroring in some ways his character from the movie, Rod Tidwell. Having stated from the moment he arrived on stage that he might go over time, Gooding Jr. thanked everyone he could remember before whooping “I love you, I love you” as the music played him off and jumping for joy
Matthew McConaughey – 2014 Academy Awards
Matthew McConaughey rattled off one of the stranger acceptance speeches in recent times when he won Best Actor for Dallas Buyer’s Club. In particular, the rambling story that he related at the end of his speech baffled many people “Now when I was 15 years old, I have a very important person in my life come to me and say, “Who is your hero?”. And I said I don’t know I gotta think about that… And so I thought about it and I said you know who it is, it’s me in 10 years.
“So I turn 25, 10 years later that same person comes to me and goes “so are you a hero?” And I was like, not even close. No, no, no. She said “Why?” I said because my hero is me at 35. So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never going to beat my hero… And that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
Angelina Jolie – 2000 Academy Awards
Things got a little bit weird when a then up-and-coming Angelina Jolie accepted the award for Best Supporting Actress for Girl Interrupted. Having already raised a few eyebrows by bringing her brother James Haven as her “date” to the ceremonies, she then blurted out on stage “I’m so in love with my brother right now.” That statement seemed positively tedious though compared to events later in the evening, when she shared an open-mouthed kiss with her brother.
Joe Pesci– 1991 Academy Awards
This speech wasn’t famous for what was said, but rather for what wasn’t said in contrast to most Oscar acceptance speeches. When Joe Pesci won Best Supporting Actor for his dynamic and chilling portrayal of Tommy DeVito (based on Thomas DeSimone) in Goodfellas , he simply said “It’s my privilege. Thank you.” It still holds the record as the shortest speech in Oscar history.
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