At the tender age of 29, Adrien Brody became the youngest Best Actor winner in Academy Awards history. He capped off his win at the 2003 Oscars by stumbling to the stage in a haze of victory and planting a big fat kiss on Halle Berry. Brody’s acceptance would live on in montage after montage about the magic and excitement of the Oscars.
But this moment of Oscar glory almost didn’t happen. In a recent interview with The Sunday Times (via Yahoo), Brody revealed that, before the ceremony, Jack Nicholson, nominated for About Schmidt, summoned his fellow nominees to his house to plan a protest. Nicholson wanted to boycott the Awards over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which began five days before the ceremony. Brody refused to take part.
“I said, ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going,’” Brody told The Sunday Times. “I said, ‘I kind of have to show up. My parents are coming. This doesn’t come around too often. I know you guys are all winners. You can sit it out. But I can’t.’”
Brody, who would win the statue for Roman Polanski’s Holocaust drama The Pianist, made his parents happy that night. And he had stiff competition, including Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs Of New York), Michael Caine (The Quiet American), Nicolas Cage (Adaptation), and Nicholson. All of the other nominees, as Brody pointed out, had already won. Also, as Brody also pointed out, it would be his only win and nomination to date.
None of the nominees protested—though the relentlessly classy Academy did forgo the fanfare of a red carpet ceremony out of respect for the war. Instead, they all looked ecstatic for the young actor’s victory.
Brody did use the opportunity to speak about Iraq. “I’m filled with a lot of sadness tonight because I’m accepting an award at such a strange time,” he said in his victory speech. “My experience of making this film made me very aware of the sadness and the dehumanization of people at the times of war, and the repercussions of war.”
“Whomever you believe in, if it’s God or Allah, may he watch over you, and let’s pray for a peaceful and swift resolution.”
In 2008, four years into the war, Nicholson told AARP that he was against the war “because it’s preemptive, and we’ve never done it that way,” which is a reason to be against the war. “You can’t imagine that every person in those countries doesn’t look at Americans as invaders and occupiers.”
Of course, one Oscar winner did boycott the event: Hayao Miyazaki, who won for his masterpiece Spirited Away. In 2009, he told The LA Times, “The reason I wasn’t here for the Academy Award was because I didn’t want to visit a country that was bombing Iraq,” he said. “At the time, my producer shut me up and did not allow me to say that, but I don’t see him around today. By the way, my producer also shared in that feeling.” Cameron Diaz accepted the award on Miyazaki’s behalf.