February 2013


When actors blow their big moment

Thursday, February 14, 2013  by Maura Casey

Jamie Foxx

Actor, Jamie Foxx

The acting profession hugs itself more than any other group, with the possible exception, my husband reminds me, of writers. But awards for writing are rarely televised. And acting awards ceremonies such as  the Academy Awards (scheduled for Feb. 24), have one common denominator: The winners make truly hideous acceptance speeches.

Think about it: the nominees spend thousands of dollars on designer dresses, tuxedos, getting their hair styled, buying jewelry, and arriving in stretch limos. Then when it comes time to speak before a worldwide audience of hundreds of millions, they melt into a puddle of clichés.

Most waste the moment. They thank everyone up to and including their childhood mail carriers. They are, in a word, awful.     

These people spend their careers memorizing great lines, and they can’t be prepared enough to write – or

hire someone to help them write – a hundred or two words ahead of time that says something profound about themselves, the experience, or life itself?

Not all bomb, of course. A few acceptance speeches have two characteristics of good writing: Great, offbeat openings and eloquent, memorable last lines, like this speech by Jamie Foxx, pictured at right, when in 2005 he won the Oscar for Best Actor for the movie "Ray" (his speech starts at 1 minute, 41 seconds). Of course Foxx has his own litany of eye-glazing thank-yous. But I would argue that his kicker – his last line – makes up for it.

Few have ever achieved the brevity of actress Jane Wyman, who, when accepting a 1949 Oscar for playing a mute woman in the movie “Johnny Belinda,” said, “I accept this very gratefully for keeping my mouth shut for once. I think I'll do it again.” And she sat down.

But my favorite acceptance speech is one that is rarely on the list of “best speeches” replete on the Internet. Yet I’ve remembered it for more than 30 years. It’s Louise Fletcher’s acceptance speech for winning Best Actress as the evil Nurse Ratchet for the 1975 film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The opening line was an attention grabber; the thank-yous were minimal; her deadpan line about working with the cast was genuinely funny; and her last thank you to her deaf parents – for which she used sign language in an era in which the disabled were more ignored than accommodated – still moves.

She did it all in 90 seconds. Now, that's a speech.

 

©Copyright 2013 by Maura Casey and PersuadeInk Blog.  Foxx photo credit: Georges Blard.

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