Oscars: Trivia and Controversies You Might Not Know

The Oscars 2016 are fast approaching. Before the ceremony airs on Sunday, February 28, at 8pm ET/5pm PT on ABC, let’s look over a few moments of the Academy Awards trivia and controversies throughout the years.

In 2005, Uruguayan Jorge Drexler was nominated for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song for “Al Otro Lado del Río” in the film Diarios de Motocicleta (Motorcycle Diaries). All the songs nominated for the Oscars that year were to be performed during the awards ceremony. Beyoncé sang three of the songs, including “Vois Sur Ton Chemin” from Les Choristes, “Believe” (with Josh Groban) from Polar Express and “Learn to be Lonely” from The Phantom of the Opera. Counting Crows performed their song “Accidentally in Love” from Shreck 2, and while Drexler expressed his desire to sing his own song, the Academy decided it was probably best that more recognized people perform it instead. The guitarrist Santana and Antonio Banderas made a decent rendition of Drexler’s song, but he wasn’t exactly happy with the Academy’s denial, so when he won the award and went up on stage to deliver his acceptance speech, this is what happened:

If that felt short, at least he said more than two words… Patty Duke holds the record for shortest acceptance speech at the Oscars, even though Alfred Hitchcock’s and Joe Pesci’s have become more memorable. Duke won an Academy Award in 1963 for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in The Miracle Worker.

Opposite her, and despite the Academy’s 45 second speech acceptance limit imposed in 2010, many consider Matthew McConaughey’s speech during the 2014 ceremony the longest (over 3 minutes long), although that’s only in the last 25 years. He won Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Dallas Buyers Club.

The longest acceptance speech ever was actually Greer Garson’s after winning Best Actress in a Leading Role for Mrs. Miniver in 1943. Hers was 5 and a half minutes long, although some urban legends tell the story of her speech being over 30 minutes and close to an hour long.

And as far as speeches go, now we’re used to Oscar winners taking advantage of those few seconds to reclaim against wars, wage gaps, political issues, etc, even going as far as Marlon Brandon having a Native American activist go up on stage in his stead. But the best moment was during 1996’s award ceremony, when four-time Oscars presenter Whoopi Goldberg covered all those bases right away:

“I got [this gig] because I seem to cross so many ethnic and political lines… I’m an equal oportunity offender. And to make sure you don’t feel short-changed in the political soapbox department, I’m going to get it all out of my system right now.”

In 1984, Linda Hunt became the first person ever to win an Oscar for portraying a member of the opposite sex, and she’s still the only one with that title. She was cast by The Year of Living Dangerously director Peter Weir after not being able to find a male actor capable of playing the role the way he wanted. This was her breakthrough performance.

Eddie Redmayne is nominated this year for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl, but his win wouldn’t make Hunt’s list because there wasn’t any cross-dressing process involved for her part. Same reason Jared Leto didn’t take the spot in 2014. Cate Blanchett, however, could have made the list had she won in 2008 for her role in I’m Not There.


And speaking of nominees, everybody loves Meryl Streep. She’s by far the most nominated actor with 19 nominations (15 for a leading role and 4 for a supporting role). She has won 3 of those for Kramer vs Kramer (1979), Sophie’s Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011). Katharine Hepburn comes second in that list with 12 nominations and 4 wins, but the second still living actress holding the most nominations after Streep is Cate Blanchett with 7 (4 in a leading role and 3 in a supporting role), but she already has won 2 of those for (ironically) playing Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004) and her role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (2013).


Nowadays, it’s not possible to vote for Oscar nominees whose names are not on the ballot. But that hasn’t always been the case. In 1936, Hal Mohr received an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, becoming the first and only person to ever win as a write-in nominee. The next year, the Academy eliminated the possibility for that to happen ever again.

Hal Mohr

What will happen this year? Will we see moments like these, which will go down in history, like DiCaprio winning his first Oscar? Will there be a record of speeches about diversity? Let’s tune in to ABC on Sunday to find out.

Elisabeth S. Contreras
Elisabeth S. Contreras
Film enthusiast and sharer of words. Don't underestimate a woman with an opinion.