2021 Oscars producer Steven Soderbergh explains decision to end show with Best Actor category

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Steven Soderbergh, one of the producers behind the 2021 Oscars, has opened up on the award show’s decision to end on the Best Actor category instead of Best Picture.

The 3rd Academy Awards, which took place April 26, notably ended with Anthony Hopkins for The Father clinching Best Actor over the late Chadwick Boseman, who was nominated for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and a favourite in the category. Hopkins wasn’t present to collect the award and deliver a speech, and the ceremony ended with Joaquin Phoenix collecting the trophy on his behalf.

In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, the Ocean’s Eleven director shed light on the decision to end on Best Actor and not the usual choice of Best Picture, saying that he and co-producers Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins discussed changing the order back in January.

“It’s our belief – that I think is not unfounded – that actors’ speeches tend to be more dramatic than producers’ speeches,” he said. “And so we thought it might be fun to mix it up, especially if people didn’t know that was coming. So that was always part of the plan.”

In the interview, Soderbergh said that had Boseman – whose widow Taylor Simone Ledward was in attendance at the Oscars – won, it would have been a “shattering” moment too difficult to follow.

“When the nominations came out and there was even the possibility that Chadwick could win posthumously, our feeling was if he were to win and his widow were to speak on his behalf, there would be nowhere to go after that. So we stuck with it,” he said.

When asked if he was anticipating a Boseman win, Soderbergh replied, “if there was even the sliver of a chance that he would win and that his widow would speak, then we were operating under the fact that was the end of the show.”

“That would have been such a shattering moment, that to come back after that would have been just impossible.”

Best Actor ultimately went to Hopkins for The Father. The actor was unable to attend and appealed to appear via Zoom, but was turned down. The lack of a speech ended the show on an abrupt note. Hopkins later released his speech on social media, paying tribute to Boseman.

When asked by the LA Times if in hindsight he would have reconsidered the Oscars’ no-Zoom policy, Soderbergh simply said, “No.” The director later explained that the ceremony was an attempt to “try some really different stuff”, focusing on intimate storytelling that emphasised the talents behind films. He added that everyone involved, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was supportive of their creative decisions.

Boseman’s family later publicly stated that they believe his loss was not a snub, adding that they wished to congratulate Hopkins, as “I’m sure [Anthony] would if Chad won.”

See the full list of winners from the 93rd Academy Awards here, and find out how you can watch all of this year’s Oscar films in the UK.

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