HOLLYWOOD — In November, "No Country for Old Men" made its way into theaters with razor-sharp dialogue, heaping helpings of ultraviolence, and a dark, much-debated conclusion. At Sunday's Oscars, however, the flick enjoyed the year's happiest ending.
"It's amazing. There's nothing like it," producer Scott Rudin beamed backstage, moments after "No Country" took Best Picture. "I loved it since the first minute I saw it, and it's a real tribute to [writers/directors] Joel and Ethan [Coen]. It's thrilling."
Watching at home, you saw the shrieks of joy and the futile attempts to smile as someone else's name was announced; on the red carpet and backstage, however, the stars put on a whole different show. Ding-dong — they seemed to sing — the strike is dead.
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"Everybody's so relieved that the strike is over," insisted "Charlie Wilson's War" co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman on his way into the Kodak Theatre, looking around at his fellow stars. "It's a good thing."
"I was greatly relieved when the strike ended, because when it was on, the Academy asked, 'Do you want tickets?' " sighed "Crash" writer/director Paul Haggis. "I said, 'Yes, of course. Unless we're on strike.' I would've been out there picketing. ... I really would've hated that."
"Are you kidding me?" beamed "Juno" director Jason Reitman on the carpet, moments after chatting up Seth Rogen. "I'm at the Academy Awards — it doesn't get much better than this!"
One person undoubtedly in agreement with that statement was Javier Bardem, who became the first Spanish-born actor to win the Oscar, taking Best Supporting Actor for his already-iconic "No Country" baddie Anton Chigurh. It was one of four wins for the flick.
"I said, 'I'm nervous,' and she said, 'Why? They're not going to give it you!' " Bardem remembered backstage of an earlier conversation he had with his mother. "She knows that real success is just to get a job."
Addressing the media, Bardem answered most of his questions in Spanish, underlining the significance of his multicultural win. "I learned one thing quickly," he remembered of his early days on the "No Country" set. "You'd better bring something, because you don't speak the [English] language, and you can't improvise."
Keeping with the evening's history-making international flavor, one of the big winners was 32-year-old French beauty Marion Cotillard, who surprisingly grabbed Best Actress for her work as Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose." "There's nothing hard about this. It's a joy, and so surreal," she said moments later, clutching her little gold guy. "I love it.
"I am totally overwhelmed by joy and sparkles and fireworks," beamed Cotillard, between out-of-breath glee and broken-English eagerness. "Everything going boom-boom-boom. I just ate all those things."
Backstage, the actress even serenaded the press room with a few breathy, touching lines from a Piaf classic. The first person to ever win an acting Oscar with a French-language performance, she explained that she used to watch the awards when she was young and often dreamt of joining the world's biggest stars. "I'm a very big fan of Peter Sellers," she grinned. "I wanted to marry him when I was a child."
Academy voters were also happy to slurp up Daniel Day-Lewis' milkshake, surprising no one by giving the British Method actor his second Oscar for "There Will Be Blood."
"I'm very much looking forward to all the milkshakes I can drink, for the next 25 years or so," he laughed, acknowledging the Internet-embraced "Blood" speech that has launched an unlikely lactose-tolerant catchphrase. "I am completely aware of it, it's fantastic. ... It's delightful to me.
"In a way, [my performance] had no thought process," he remembered of his over-the-top work as maniacal oil tycoon Daniel Plainview. "If you're thinking, in some way you're already outside it.
"I had to kiss someone," Day-Lewis said of why he puckered up to fellow nominee George Clooney during his big moment. "I had kissed my wife, so in the interest of parity, I had to kiss George."
Another Oscar winner who worked Clooney into her antics was Tilda Swinton, who snagged Best Supporting Actress for "Michael Clayton" and took the stage in a black velvety gown (she'd later say, "I feel like I'm in my pajamas"). "I had a reverse 'Zoolander' moment," Swinton remembered of her win. "I thought I heard somebody else's name, and then I slowly heard my own. I'm still recovering from that moment. You could tell me my dress fell off, and I'd believe you."
Swinton added: "I kind of thought Ruby Dee would win; frankly, anybody but myself."
Undoubtedly, Swinton's acceptance speech was the first in Oscar history to employ the words "rubber nipples." "I'm just paying him back from the stage," Swinton later said of her dig at "Clayton" leading man, former Batman and notorious prankster George Clooney. "There are scores to be settled."
Besides teasing Clooney, was there a trend to be spotted at this year's Oscars? In addition to shorter dresses and orange lapel ribbons, the acceptance speech that was all the rage seemed to be the one you don't write.
"I've learned not to get too excited about things," Hoffman said, insisting that his "Capote" win had taught him to not bother writing a speech (sure enough, he'd soon lose to Javier Bardem). "No, I'm not going to win."
"Nah, I don't got a speech," grinned Reitman as he walked into the Kodak, moments before losing Best Director to the Coen brothers. "I'm not gonna win tonight. But you know what? There's almost a joy to knowing you're not gonna win."
Reitman did admit that "When Diablo wins, I'll be f---ing jumping up and down," and sure enough, his "Juno" screenwriter Diablo Cody took home the trophy for Best Original Screenplay.
"I'm sure my shoes cost a lot, but not a million dollars," said the tattooed, leopard-dress-clad writer backstage, addressing a rumor that she was wearing the evening's most expensive footwear. "If I had a million dollars, I'd help people.
"If I had the money, I'd probably pay everyone off in the journalism profession to never mention that again," she joked of her history as a stripper-turned-screenwriter. "All I know is ['Juno'] beat the odds."
One of the best-reviewed films of the year was Brad Bird's "Ratatouille," yet its Oscar buzz was solely in the Best Animated Feature category. Backstage, the director addressed the thorny theory that animation can no longer penetrate the Best Picture category.
"I hope one day that another animated film does again, like 'Beauty and the Beast' was, get nominated as the Best Picture," said Bird, who also won for "The Incredibles" three years ago. "If you asked me, 'Was "Snow White" one of the five best movies of 1937?' I would say yeah ... but it's all good. Come on, it's the Oscars!"
One of the evening's most powerful moments was when musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performed the impossibly romantic duet "Falling Slowly" from the movie "Once," then took home the Oscar for Best Song.
"I bought the guitar with the money I made from 'The Commitments,' " Hansard explained of his beat-up instrument, perhaps the evening's most unusual red-carpet accessory. "I carry it with me everywhere I go. ... I didn't want to change who I am, just because of where I am."
Backstage with her Oscar, Irglova explained her shock as host Jon Stewart explained that he wanted to make amends to her for being played offstage. "He came backstage and said they were going to take me back out to make a speech," she remembered. "It didn't really make sense to me, because it had never been done before."
The actors/musicians added that they were in New York last year and played to a crowd of 75 people at a small dive bar; soon, they'll return to the city to entertain 6,000 at Radio City Music Hall.
Finally, after making nine of the greatest films you probably haven't seen — plus "The Big Lebowski" and "Fargo" — the Coen brothers finally took home a ridiculously overdue Best Director Oscar for "No Country for Old Men." "I think it was a special year in the respect that — it sounds like a cliché, but — all the movies this year were very interesting to me personally," insisted Ethan, standing alongside his brother in the press room.
"It's a serious movie, but it also has genre underpinnings," Rudin said of what made Oscar voters pick "Country" without needing to flip any coins. "It's got a real, beating heart."
With their hearts still beating rapidly, and new gold baubles in their hands, the night's winners bid adieu to the Kodak Theatre and rode their limos into the rainy Hollywood evening. The adrenaline rush fueled them well into the night, and they were prepared to drink it up like a milkshake.
"There are some parties, apparently," Tilda Swinton said of her plans, a wry grin enveloping her face. "You didn't hear that from me. But apparently, they go on and on."
MTV News had the Academy Awards covered all night! Check out the winners' list right here, our live blog, and our two different red-carpet fashion reports, including one from Sweet P of "Project Runway"!