Academy Awards Flashback – Memorable Acceptance Speeches

February 27th, 2011 // Leave a Comment
Halle Berry 2001 Oscars academy awards speech

Academy Award audiences watch the live broadcast for lots of reasons – to watch the host bomb or triumph, to see the stars in their finest (and sometimes freakiest) red carpet fashions or to laugh their way through an awkward musical number or two – but many of the most memorable moments at the ceremony come from the winning stars. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes sincere, always fodder for water cooler talk on Monday, their acceptance speeches are one of the most eagerly anticipated facets of the world’s most well-known awards ceremony. So, before we get played off by the orchestra, let’s take a look at some of Oscar’s most memorable acceptance speeches.

Joe Pesci (Best Supporting Actor, Goodfellas, 1990)
For someone who played the fast-talking Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas (and in my opinion, he could have won for this scene alone ), Joe Pesci could have crammed a whole lot of acknowledements into his alotted speech time (and amused us!), but, kept his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor short and sweet – in fact, it went on record as one of the shortest Oscar speeches in history. Upon taking the stage and clutching his award, he spoke into the mic, saying “This is an honor and privilege. Thank you very much.” (Since this clip can’t be embedded, you can check it out here – don’t worry, it’s short!)

Check out more award-winning speeches – and videos – after the jump!

Sally Field (Best Actress, Places in the Heart, 1985)
Despite being one of the most memorable speeches in Oscar history, it’s also the most often misquoted. Winning her second Oscar (her first was for her role as Norma Rae in 1980), the former Flying Nun said, “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” As it’s remembered in pop culture, Sally allegedly says “You like me, you really like me!” Watch the clip and learn the truth!

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Jack Palance (Best Supporting Actor, City Slickers, 1991)
Veteran actor Jack Palance was known prior to 1991 as a straight actor, taking on roles in westerns such as the classic Shane, which earned him a nomination in 1953. It took a comic turn on his cowboy roles, the tough-as-nails cowboy Curly in the 1992 comedy City Slickers to bring him Oscar gold. As the 6’4″, still imposing actor accepted his award, he looked at Oscar host Billy Crystal and said, “I crap bigger than him.” He then cracked up presenter Whoopi Goldberg by getting down on the stage and performing some one-handed pushups. Not only did the then 73-year-old actor provide the evening’s most talked-about moment, it also provided joke material for Billy Crystal for the rest of the night. During the rest of the ceremony, Crystal occasionally mentioned Palance saying among other things that he was backstage on the Stairmaster; had “just bungee-jumped off the Hollywood sign”; had fathered all the children in a production number and had been named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.


Jack Palance Wins the Oscar
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Tom Hanks (Best Actor, Philadelphia, 1993)
While receiving his first Oscar for his role as an attorney stricken with AIDS, Hanks not only gave a shout-out to his film partner, Antonio Banderas, “Who, second only to my lover (Rita Wilson), is the only person I would trade for” but recalled his inspiration for the role as a drama teacher he had in high school. Hanks thanked “Rawley Farnsworth, who was my high school drama teacher, who taught me, ‘To act well the part, there all the glory lies,’” and his former classmate John Gilkerson and called them “two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with.” Unfortunately, Farnsworth had not yet come out of the closet. This small gaffe became the inspiration for the 1997 comedy In and Out.


1993 – Philadelphia Oscar Acceptance Speech
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Cuba Gooding Jr. (Best Supporting Actor, Jerry Maguire, 1997)
It’s really too bad thay they give the Supporting Acting Oscars out so early in the ceremony, because this speech had enough energy to get the whole theater going and would have helped prevent the inevitable mid-show sag. After receiving a standing ovation from on-screen wife Regina King, as well as Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Cuba bounds onstage, truly ecstatic and tells the conductor he won’t be mad if he launches into the “get off the stage music” but that he’s got a lot of people to thank. In a speech that could have come out of the mouth of Cuba’s Jerry Maguire character Rod Tidwell, Cuba thanks his wife and parents and yells to co-star Tom Cruise, “I love you brother!” As the orchestra plays, Cuba’s still yelling and he sure does love everybody. His antics garnered the appreciation of audience members including Steve Martin and…is that George Foreman? After his Oscar triumph, Cuba went on to make such films as Boat Trip and Rat Race. Could we get Quentin Tarantino to give this guy a comeback vehicle a la John Travolta? Watching this clip makes me want to see him win again!


Cuba Gooding Jr. Oscar Acceptance Speech
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Roberto Benigni (Best Foreign Film, Life is Beautiful, 1998)
Usually the unwashed masses head to grab a drink or a tinkle when the best foreign film awards are handed out, but if you stepped away during the 1999 ceremony, you missed some craziness! When the director and star of the WWII-era Italian import was announced as the award winner – by none other than the eternally elegant (and Italian icon) Sophia Loren, Benigni went to the stage by way of climbing over the audiences’ heads across the tops of the theater seats, stopping to grab Steven Speilberg’s hand and bunny hopping up the steps to the stage. He then launched into a speech with vaguely strung together English/Italian phrases and lots of “Thank You”s! (He also thanked his parents for the biggest gift – “poverty”!) This is actually a great bookend to Cuba’s speech!


Roberto Benigni agli Oscar
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Julia Roberts (Best Actress, Erin Brockovich, 2000)
After nominations for Pretty Woman and Steel Magnolias, “America’s Sweetheart” (pre-Sandra Bullock and Betty White, of cousrse), Julia Roberts beat out such stiff competition as Laura Linney and Ellen Burystn (which I still can’t believe) as 2003′s Best Actress for her role in Erin Brockovich. Wearing vintage Valentino and her trademark million dollar smile, Roberts came on stage and told the conductor (the “stick man” as she later would call him) to sit down because, as she acknowledged, “I may never be up here again.” She then went on giggling, shrieking and making memories – like when she stopped, looked at her award and muttered “This is quite pretty.” Even if you’re not a Julia Roberts fan, you can’t help but be charmed by her exuberance.

Russell Crowe (Best Actor, Gladiator, 2000)
Remember when Russell Crowe was just mind-numbingly hot? And humble? When he received the Best Actor prize for Gladiator in 2000, Russell gave a short and sweet speech that just melted hearts everywhere and showed another side to the on-screen warrior. Among his inspiring words were, “You know when you grow up in the suburbs of Sydney or Auckland or Newcastle…or the suburbs of anywhere. You know a dream like this seems kind of vaguely ludicrous and completely unattainable. But this moment is directly connected to those childhood imaginings. And for anybody who’s on the downside of advantage, and relying purely on courage; it’s possible.”

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Halle Berry (Best Actress, Monster’s Ball, 2001)
Halle Berry had a reason to be emotional – she was the first African American to win a Best Actress award – and her moving speech is definitely one that will go down in history. Looking as radiant as ever in a gorgeous floral gown (Yes, this clip is ten plus years old. Seriously, does this woman ever age?) and already crying as she took the award from presenter Russell Crowe. Halle, in between her tears, said, “This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” Halle was far less emotional when she accepted her 2005 Worst Actress Razzie for Catwoman, thanking “Warner Brothers, for putting me in a godawful piece of s— movie.” (But hey, she did show up for the ceremony!)

Kate Winslet (Best Actress, The Reader, 2009)
First of all, who doesn’t love Kate Winslet? After stellar performances in such films as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Little Children (I’m not mentioning that movie about the big boat), this British beauty finally grabbed a statue of her very own for her role in The Reader, besting such competition as Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep. Not only did Kate look humbled and touched by her heartfelt introduction by La Vie en Rose star Marion Cotillard, she shone during her brief acceptance speech. She was positivelyt giddy with excitement as she recalled, “I’d be lying if I haven’t made a version of this speech before, I think I probably would have been eight years old in front of my bathroom mirror and (the Oscar) would have been a shampoo bottle” and then had her Dad whistle to her from the audience. Future Best Actress should take a lesson from her!

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Who’s going to make this year’s most memorable speeches? Find out when the 83rd Academy Awards, hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, are handed out Sunday, February 27th starting at 8pm EST on ABC!

By Christine Fitzgerald
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